With three stages remaining, the GC battle begins to take shape.
Richie Porte and Michael Woods (EF-Education First) went head to head in the second stage at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, outclimbing the rest of the peloton and arriving at the finish in a two-up sprint with Woods easily taking the win. Although Porte couldn’t match the speed of the Canadian in the last meters, the scene has been set for an exciting fight for the overall classification, and the final battle, which will be fought on stage four on the iconic Arthur’s Seat climb.
“Woodsy, firstly I think he deserved [the win],” said Porte. “Everyone knows the horrors of the last year he has been through – I don’t think he minds me saying that; we had a baby around the same time and the heartache of it all for him. I like Woodsy, he’s a good guy, and he’s really turned it on in the past year. He’s a great athlete and his team rode well, they didn’t mess around.
“He’s got the pressure on him now, and they’re going to have to ride the next two days, and I mean that’s not going to be easy to control on Saturday up Arthur’s Seat. From our point of view, the guys were absolutely fantastic today. They did a great job, and it’s day by day now. We will see how it is tomorrow because on paper it doesn’t look like much, but if the wind is like it was today and it’s a bit more cross [wind], the race could just rip apart.”
The 127-kilometer stage ended with a category two climb that cumulated on a 1.8-kilometer steep gravel road that crested 12 kilometers from the finish line, and it was here that Woods put in an attack that only Porte could answer. The two dropped the rest of a select group that had formed and held their gap through the descent and final flat four-kilometer run-in.
When Woods first hit it on the climb, I felt quite comfortable, but on the gravel, it was a bit more punchy – it was quite steep actually, probably around 12% or something like that – and I found it a bit more hard to follow him there. I was sitting, and he was dancing out of the saddle; he has obviously done a bit more in the gravel than I have. But he’s got all the pressure on him now to control - he’s going to be hard to beat on Arthur’s Seat.
After a crash split the peloton, Team Sky took control, setting a hard pace to the base and continuing up the bottom portion of the climb. But it was Woods and Porte who blew it apart on the gravel, leaving Sky with third and fourth places as Kenny Elissonde and Dylan van Baarle crossed the line just under 20 seconds later.
Sky ripped it apart at the bottom of that climb and made it a real race.
While the GC has the potential to change again in stage three depending on the conditions, the overall podium will likely be decided on the penultimate stage a day later and its four ascents of Arthur’s Seat.
I’ve done Arthur’s Seat before, and it is not a bad climb for me, but it’s not a bad climb for [Woods] either. Let’s get through tomorrow first. He’s probably going to have some sleepless nights which is just fine by me. I think I am getting better day by day, and to get through today, it was a hard climb, so it was good, but I also think on Saturday don’t discount the others. It’s not a two-horse race.