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Michael Woods (EF Education First Pro Cycling) returned to the Tour Down Under for the third time in his short professional career this week. Despite a hillier course than previous years, Woods was unable to best his fifth place on general classification from three years ago, finishing seventh on the final stage at Willunga Hill and seventh on GC. Going into the final stage, and based on previous editions of the race, a group of climbing specialists including Woods, George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), Wout Poels (Team Sky) and Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), were all hoping to be aggressive in the hope of at least taking the stage and with a faint possibility of taking the overall. Attacks from Team Sky's Poels and Kenny Elissonde were ultimately fruitless, however, as Richie Porte surged to the line to take a sixth consecutive stage victory on Willunga Hill.ADVERTISEMENT Woods did his best to match the Australian - they were on the same time on GC ahead of the stage - but was unable to hold Porte's wheel in the final few hundred metres. "It was hard, disappointing," Woods told reporters after the stage. "I felt really good today and felt like I did a really good job of positioning, when Richie [Porte] went I followed but Richie is so good on this climb, it's tailor made for him. "I really struggle on the non-steep climbs, especially if there's headwind and he just tore me apart. I blew up and felt like I was just treading water for the last kilometre, just trying to stay afloat and guys kept on coming past me. That's the disappointing part of racing to win, when you fail you blow up big time."
You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Daryl Impey's overall victory at the 2019 Tour Down Under on Sunday was the first time that a rider had ever defended their title in 21 editions of the men's event. The Mitchelton-Scott rider had begun the final stage with a 19-second buffer to eventual runner-up Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), and with the day's breakaway hoovering up the bonus seconds available on the stage's two intermediate sprints, it was going to come down to the final climb of Willunga Hill to decide the overall winner. While Porte attacked to win on Willunga for the sixth year in a row, in an almost carbon copy of last year's race – when Impey and Porte finished with the same overall time, but Impey won the race overall in 'countback' – the South African was able to keep Porte within sight, and dug deep enough to latch on to second-placed Wout Poels (Team Sky) and finish third on the stage in the same time as a celebrating Porte.ADVERTISEMENT The Australian took a 10-second bonus for the stage win, and Impey's third place gave him four seconds, which meant that Impey beat Porte overall by 13 seconds, with Poels third, another four seconds back. Overnight race leader Patrick Bevin's injuries from his crash on stage 5 meant that the New Zealander was unable to follow the pace on the first ascent of Willunga Hill, and he fell well out of contention with more than 20 kilometres of the stage left to race. "I felt sorry for Paddy," Impey told reporters after receiving the ochre leader's jersey on the podium. "I was looking forward to having a nice battle with him, and it's very sad that he wasn't in his best condition due to his crash.
You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Following Patrick Bevin's crash 10km from the end of Saturday's fifth stage from Glenelg to Strathalbyn at the Tour Down Under, there was some uncertainty as to whether the other teams had actually waited for him to come back – and if they didn't, whether they should have. With so much at stake – both for the sprinters' teams looking for the stage win and for Bevin trying to retain his race lead – but with the kilometres rapidly ticking down, any lull could only be brief. As Bevin chased back to the front of the race thanks to his CCC teammates and some canny use of his team car, the sprinters' teams soon had no choice but to organise themselves for the sprint finish.ADVERTISEMENT "Everyone was really nervous, and everyone was trying to hold position," EF Education First directeur sportif Tom Southam told Cyclingnews ahead of the start of Sunday's sixth stage. "That just drives the speed up. It would have been a really difficult job for anyone to actually go to the front of the group that close to the finish and to get everyone to slow down. But I think the teams just held their positions for a little while. No one was really ready yet to step in to do their lead-out because it was still a bit early. "Put it this way: no one sought to immediately profit from it [Bevin's crash]," said Southam. "Which I think is as fair as you can be. If someone had hopped on the front, that would have been different. I don't think anybody did anything wrong yesterday, and I think that's all you can expect in that situation. "There are these sort of unwritten rules, which are important as well, and don't forget it's only January, so whatever you do here, you've got the whole rest of the season..." he continued, suggesting that a strong sense of "we're all in this together" exists, and that no one wants to rub anyone else up the wrong way – especially not this early in the year.
You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Patrick Bevin has been cleared to start the final stage of the Tour Down Under. The race leader crashed heavily on stage 5, and although he eventually finished in the bunch he was taken straight to hospital for X-rays and medical checks. CCC Team announced on Saturday evening that Bevin would need to go through a series of medical tests Sunday morning ahead of the final stage before any confirmation could be confirmed with regards to a possible start. The team stated that Bevin would go through a test for concussion. Just before 9am local time the team announced that Bevin had passed the examinations and would start the stage. The New Zealand rider carries a seven-second lead into stage 6, with last year's winner Daryl Impey (Mitchelton Scott) breathing down his neck.ADVERTISEMENT This is Bevin's first WorldTour race in the colours of CCC Team after the Polish company took up the sponsorship from BMC Racing at the start of 2019. Bevin pulled on the leader's jersey at the Tour Down Under after picking up five bonus seconds on stage 1 and then winning the following day. He defended his lead on the Corkscrew stage and then traded blows with Impey in a battle for the intermediate sprints on stage 5. However, with 10 kilometers to go Bevin was involved in a fall after Deceuninck-QuickStep moved the peloton from one side of the road to the other. The crash wasn't intentional, but the Belgian team's change of position created a ripple effect in the middle of the bunch. Bevin hit the deck as the peloton were preparing for the sprint finish. When he remounted he was assisted by his teammates. He also took a long tow and received pacing from his team car. He was not sanctioned for the move, and Cyclingnews understands that no team made an official protest. There has been debate over whether the peloton intentionally waited for Bevin, with Michael Woods (EF Education First) taking to Twitter on Saturday evening to praise Mitchelton-Scott for slowing down the field.
You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Confusion seemed to be the theme at the finish of stage 5 of the Tour Down Under. First came the relegation of Caleb Ewan after he threw a series of headbutts in the direction of eventual winner Jasper Philipsen, and then came the debate over Patrick Bevin and whether he would be penalisd for taking a long tow from his team after a crash occurred inside the final 10 kilometres. At one point an announcement came through that the race jury were looking at two incidents and that two jerseys were under review. In the end, only Ewan was sanctioned, while Bevin was taken to hospital for checks. His seven-second lead over rival Daryl Impey would stand. At the Mitchelton-Scott bus the mood seemed relaxed, even if there was a suggestion that Impey might need to head to the podium if Bevin's tow and drafting were to face censure. The South African was having none of it. In front of the team and the small gathering of media he immediately ruled out the idea of going onto the podium and taking a jersey in such circumstances, unwilling to benefit from a rival's bad luck and crash.ADVERTISEMENT At the time, there was still debate over whether Mitchelton had organized a go-slow once news filtered through of Bevin's fall. The peloton certainly seemed to ease and fan out across the road as the Kiwi remounted and gave chase, but Deceuninck-QuickStep denied that the pace dropped. Some teams suggested that they had simply 'held position' near the front rather than completely taken their foot off the gas. The general consensus from all teams, however, was that the finale was a tense and traumatic affair. CCC Team later tipped their hat to Mitchelton-Scott for allowing the pace to ease. According to the riders it was the peloton, and not those in the cars, who decided that Bevin should be allowed to come back. EF Education First rider Michael Woods later took to Twitter and praised Impey directly. Those words from the South African at the finish line were genuine. Mitchelton also ruled out any form of protest when it came to the manner of Bevin's return the bunch.
You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Nacer Bouhanni and his Cofidis team appear to have ironed out their tensions - if not completely buried the hatchet - as the Frenchman looks ahead to the new season with renewed vigour. Bouhanni has fallen out with team management on a number of occasions in the past 18 months, with the turning point seemingly being Cédric Vasseur's arrival as team manager - at the expense of Yvon Sanquer - mid-way through 2017. However, he ended 2018 on a high, with a stage win at the Vuelta a España, and, after relocating to the warmer climes of the south of France, a good winter has allowed him to reset mentally and physically ahead of the 2019 campaign.ADVERTISEMENT "I feel good. I reached 1630 watts in a sprint for the first time - before I was at 1550 - and we're only in January. I'm more relaxed, I try to block out a lot of things, and spread myself less thinly in order to focus squarely on my job," Bouhanni said in an interview with French newspaper L'Equipe. "When the head leads, the legs follow, and I'm happy to be riding my bike. Last year, I wasn't happy riding my bike. My girlfriend and my family help me be positive. I've understood that there is a life after cycling, and that helps me put things in perspective." As for the team, Bouhanni has decided to stop worrying about that, and concentrate solely on himself. When Vasseur took over and put his plans in place for 2018, Bouhanni found himself relegated, no longer the big leader in the team, and often demoted below his own previous lead-out man, Christophe Laporte.
You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

UAE Team Emirates rider Jasper Philipsen's first WorldTour victory came in unusual circumstances following Caleb Ewan's (Lotto Soudal) demotion for an 'irregular sprint' on stage 5 of the Tour Down Under on Saturday. After initially being awarded the stage victory, Ewan was relegated by the race jury to the final place in the first group across the line after the Australian sprinter had appeared to headbutt Philipsen in the fight for position in the final kilometre. Philipsen was then handed the stage win, with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Danny van Poppel (Jumbo-Visma) rounding out the podium in second and third, respectively. "The first thing that happened with Caleb was that I think we were both trying to be in a good position. I was in the wind and I just wanted to also get on the wheel so that I didn't lose energy for the sprint," Philipsen told reporters after the podium presentation.ADVERTISEMENT "I think he just hit me twice with his head, and then the jury has decided it was wrong. For me, it all happened so fast. It was hard to see if it was wrong or not. I was just happy to have taken second on the stage, so it's a bit of a strange feeling to win, but for sure I respect the decision of the jury." Helicopter footage of the final few hundred metres showed Ewan used his head to fight for position as both he and Philipsen jostled for Sagan's wheel. But while Ewan's directeur sportif, Mario Aerts, defended his sprinter's actions, the race jury's decision was definitive. UAE Team Emirates sports director Neil Stephens confirmed to Cyclingnews after the stage that no official complaint was brought by the team.
You can read more at Cyclingnews.com