‘Without Pedersen, Porte would’ve been f***ed’
Something never quite seemed right about the fact that Richie Porte had won on top of Old Willunga Hill for the past six years straight, but only had one Tour Down Under ochre jersey to show for it.
So the irony of him surrendering his title as 'King of the Hill', but finally clinching a second TDU crown was not lost on him or the thousands of fans who turned out to see it on Sunday.
In his words, he might have lost the battle to shock stage winner Matthew Holmes - a first-year British professional - but he had won the war by dropping two-time defending champion and overnight leader Daryl Impey on the final climb to claim victory.
"Of course it would have been nice to win the stage, but to win the race is a fantastic feeling," Porte said.
"For our team to also win the women's tour (with Ruth Winder), it's a great start to the year for us."
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Impey paid for a big week and surrendered his spot on the podium to Italian Diego Ulissi and German Simon Geschke.
Porte's victory almost didn't happen when a 26-man breakaway got out to a four-minute lead mid-stage and was only reeled in thanks to the work of his Trek-Segafredo teammates.
In particular, Porte can thank world champion Mads Pedersen who sprinted against Impey all week then on Sunday rode on the front, even after getting dropped and working his way back to the head of the peloton.
One UAE-Emirates rider put it bluntly at his team van post-race when he was overheard saying: "If Trek didn't have Mads Pedersen then Richie Porte would have been f***ed".
Porte heaped praise on his Danish teammate last night.
"Mads pretty much single-handedly took two minutes out of the rest of the 26 guys up the road," he said.
"When he won worlds, a few days after he said to me he would come to Tour Down Under and help me try to win the race, so for him to back that up he's been awesome like all the guys have."
Mitchelton-Scott threw the kitchen sink at Porte all week trying to win the Tour through time bonuses, but unlike previous years Impey didn't have the legs to go with the Tasmanian on the final climb.
Simon Yates tried, but later told teammates: "I went with him the first time, then he went again and I went with him for four seconds and I had to sit down".
"Good week, boys," Michael Hepburn told his teammates and he was echoed by Jack Bauer who said "well done team, we were all there".
The result meant Impey finished sixth overall and was denied a three-peat.
"I just came over the line spent, I knew I was out of it once I got dropped, but kept fighting to the line to try to limit the damage," Impey said.
"I wasn't on a great day today and struggled a bit, and probably (was) paying for quite a busy week, but that said we gave it our all.
"Going into today's stage I would have preferred a 20-second buffer, but it was a lot closer and he rode a great race.
"We wanted the (break) to go away so the (time) bonuses were gone, so tactically we rode a good race … it wasn't up to us to chase all day."
Porte said he understood why Mitchelton-Scott didn't help pull the race back together sooner.
"It was a hard day for our team and there were times I thought maybe the GC (general classification) was over and done with because there was a big group up the road," he said.
"But credit to the guys, they almost single-handedly brought it back and it's a great feeling to finish their work off.
"Ag2R did a good bit of work too, but I understand Mitchelton's perspective, Matt White came up to me and shook my hand and said 'it's a battle', so there is no respect lost there, it was my race to win."
Porte set up his win by claiming Stage 3 at Paracombe on Thursday, and second place on Willunga was good enough to secure him the title by 25 seconds.
"It's a fantastic way to start the year, everyone's got their opinions on peaking and this and that, but being from Australia to win the Tour Down Under it's a great satisfaction and I won't let anyone take that away," he said.
"I've worked hard for this and I know I can still win bike races, so it's good for the season coming."