The third stage of the Tour Down Under will start a new chapter of the race for overall victory, with the attacks, time gains and time losses of stage 2 ripping up the expected script for the final days of the race.
Michael Matthews (Jayco-Alula) was the big favorite for overall victory but his 2:13 time loss on stage 2, sparked by a brutal and cruel ripple in the peloton and some damage to his bike as they hit the decisive climb of the day , lead to the Australian admitting it was ‘game over’ for the GC.
Matthews had dedicated his winter to being at his best for the Tour Down Under, but slipped to 58th at 2:09. Now he will have to pick himself up, perhaps try to win an internship and help Simon Yates as the British climber becomes Jayco-AlUla’s plan A.
Yates is 12th overall at 21 seconds after being in the decisive attack on stage 2. That’s within touching distance of new race leader Rohan Dennis (Jumbo-Visma), but to win the Tour Down Under Yates will have to crack Dennis and also gain time on major rivals such as Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates), Mauro Schmid (Soudal-QuickStep), the evermore-impressive Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers), the on-form Corbin Strong (Israel-Premier Tech) and perhaps even Ethan Hayter ( Ineos Grenadiers).
Yates will have to ride aggressively on Friday’s stage to Campbelltown and especially over the Corkscrew Road climb that ends just 5.8km from the finish. The 9% hill is his best chance to pull back time.
Saturday’s fourth stage to Willunga – not including the famous hill – is expected to be a day for the sprinters, with stage 5 to Mount Lofty its final chance as it hosts the culminating showdown on a rolling circuit.
Dennis, Vine, Schmid, Sheffield and Yates appear to be the strongest candidates for the final podium places of the Tour Down Under. Dennis is now in the ochre-coloured leader’s jersey but leads Vine by just three seconds. Sheffield is third at 12 seconds and Schmid fourth at 13. Just behind them are Strong in fifth at 14 seconds and Hayter 11th at 21 seconds.
Giro d’Italia winner Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) was also in the big attack on stage 2 but is still 42 seconds down on Dennis after losing a lot of time in the rain-soaked time trial. He could still target a stage victory on Friday or Sunday and so add another layer of complexity to the battle for overall victory.
Into the Adelaide Hills and over Corkscrew Road
Stage 3 is a 116.8km loop deep into the Adelaide Hills. The twists and turns roll up and roll down all day but the decisive moment is Corkscrew Road. The climb is 2.3km long with an average gradient of 9.2% and several far steeper sections. It starts gradually from the main road, with the hardest, steepest parts twisting near the summit at double digits.
The descent to the finish in Campbelltown is on a fast main road and into the Adelaide suburbs. It seems perfect for an attack by Yates and Vine from the very bottom, so they can test Dennis’ climbing ability and perhaps even distance him.
“It’s much more a Jay Vine climb than a Rohan Dennis climb,” suggested the new race leader, going on the defensive.
“We will see how Jay is climbing. He was pretty strong today and he was the one really pushing that break as much as possible. Lets hope I can be within striking distance over the top and maybe come back.
“I will be watching him and not stressing too much if he does get a gap. There is always a bit of time after the top but I don’t want to give him too much. Hopefully, my legs agree with my head.”
Vine has fast-tracked his career in the last two years, jumping from Zwift to Alpecin-Deceuninck and then stage wins at the 2022 Vuelta a España. He has the talent and bike skills to back the numbers and stepped to WorldTour level for 2023, moving to UAE Team Emirates. Now he has a shot at winning his first WorldTour stage race.
“I think it’d be ideal to stay away over the top but there are lots of things to happen before then, including the run in which is super crucial,” Vine pointed out.
“It looks like Jayco-AlUla will change leadership and will want to get Yates up the road on Corkscrew Road. Then again if the Mount Lofty stage is raced full gas from the start, it could be a really spectacular day. This race is about more than just Stage 3, not by a long shot.”