Temperatures were rising and the terrain at the Tour Down Under was getting tougher. Seeing how hard the day’s breakaway was suffering in the heat, the peloton let the sun do the work for them, taking it easier to conserve energy for the uphill finish as the escape fell apart. While the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, looked strong in the push for the line, the effort was hard to sustain and was unable to take the hard uphill sprint finale. Peter’s BORA-hansgrohe teammate, Jay McCarthy, took valuable seconds on the line to climb up the GC.
Heading east from Unley, the stage today took on a more undulating profile. While there was only one categorised climb today on the 148.6km parcours, the 6.3% Tea Tree Gully, the route saw more climbing than on yesterday’s stage, while the finale saw riders on an upward drag after three laps of a tough finishing circuit. With temperatures rising into the mid 30s, this was bound to have an impact on the day’s outcome with the race becoming progressively tougher. The finale would be slower than yesterday’s stage, but not by much.
The Team Tactics
Having narrowly missed out on the win on yesterday’s bunch sprint, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, would still have his eye on the win, but while the Slovak rider was capable of winning on the hillier parcours, the events of the day would decide whether he would be in contention at the finish. The GC race would also be taking shape, and Jay McCarthy, who finished third in last year’s edition, would be looking to make his mark in the finale, the Australian rider having won in Stirling in the 2016 Tour Down Under.
Another escape went ahead early today. With three of the four-man breakaway having been in the break on yesterday’s stage, they clearly hadn’t suffered enough in the south Australian heat, their gap growing as the day went on. Lacking the ambition of stage 1, the break shed riders in the more challenging terrain, the peloton not having to work hard to reel them in, making contact with the final escapee with 10km to go. The pace ramping up in the bunch, both Peter Sagan and Jay McCarthy were up there in the finish in strong positions, but in the finale some late twists and turns made it difficult to judge the best time to kick, and in the face of some early attacks the peloton was forced to react and up the pace. While the UCI World Champion led the peloton, he was unable to sustain the effort and eased off, making sure his teammate took the bonus seconds on the line that could prove pivotal in the overall standings in days to come.
From the Finish Line
“It was a very hot day and the race went as we had expected. We did our best but in the finale, Caleb Ewan was stronger. I’m happy that Jay got some valuable bonus seconds and we now have another four stages to try our best.” – Peter Sagan
“Today there was probably a bigger group in the finale than the last time I did it. We went today with two goals, to look after Peter and for me to hopefully gain some seconds in the overall. The plan was that I was going to try to open early so that Peter could come over on top of me. With 300 meters to go, one of the FDJ riders came around me and closed my line. Caleb and Impey got past while Peter was behind them. I started opening but once I saw Peter couldn’t go for the win, I went for the bonus seconds that will be important later on in the week. I moved to fourth overall and I have to fight every day. Yesterday, I was fighting with Nathan Haas for the one second that was available in the sprint. Last year, I was only on the podium because of the time I gained during the week, so we’ll take any seconds available.” – Jay McCarthy
“Stage 2 of the Tour Down Under was a hard one on a pretty warm day. The team worked well, everything went as planned, except for the final result. We were hoping for the win and we could have probably gotten it but in the end, it wasn’t possible. Caleb Ewan was stronger while Jay and Peter got a good third and fourth position.” – Patxi Vila