|When the pivotal attack came on today’s Tour Down Under Queen Stage, BORA-hansgrohe’s Jay McCarthy put his cards on the table and went for glory. As his teammate, UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, summed up after the race, “It’s always better to try than do nothing”, and the Australian rider knew that stage 5 was where the race for the overall victory was going to come to life, and he turned himself inside out to stay in contention. While Jay was unable to stay with the eventual stage winner, he showed bravery, grit and determination in his efforts, while the team showed its strength in pulling together to bring both Jay and Peter to the foot of the day’s climbs in a position to contest the win.
The Queen Stage would be the most important day of the Tour Down Under so far, and with the sprinters likely to take centre stage for tomorrow’s grand finale, if the GC riders wanted to take the win, they had to make their move today. Willunga Hill was where the decisive move would come, with the major climb of the day being ridden twice on this 151.5km stage, and with the finale taking place on the second ascent, to be in with a chance, riders would have to stay in touch on both occasions. After days of scorching heat, the weather was finally cooling – if only slightly – but this would give riders just that little bit extra, and that could make all the difference.
The Team Tactics
Starting the day third in the GC, BORA-hansgrohe’s Jay McCarthy knew that there were only a few opportunities left for him to show his cards in the overall standings, and while Peter Sagan was wearing the ochre jersey of race leader, the UCI World Champion wanted the Australian rider to have a chance at bettering his position. The team would work to keep the ochre jersey and Jay safe and deliver them at the bottom of the day’s pivotal second ascent of Willunga Hill, where all of the stage’s action would take place.
There was a sense of urgency from the start today, and while the previous days’ racing had seen only a few riders try to escape at the start of the day, stage 5 saw seven riders attack as soon as the race left the neutralised zone. The peloton had to decide whether to work to bring the escapees back in, expending energy, or risk leaving them out ahead, only for the break to take the win and frustrate the peloton’s GC ambitions. With BORA-hansgrohe working to reduce the gap, on making the first ascent of Willunga Hill the gap fell massively, and it was all back together by the bottom of the second, pivotal climb. While Peter Sagan, in the ochre race leader’s jersey, couldn’t stay with the bunch, it was Jay McCarthy who was the only rider to be able to go when the inevitable attack from Richie Porte came. The BORA-hansgrohe GC contender bravely clung on but was unable to go again when a second attack came, dropping out of the GC top ten after a hard-fought effort on a difficult day in the saddle.