Talking Tactics with Robbie McEwen: Staging Connections Stage 2
15 Mar 17

During each stage of the 2017 Santos Tour Down Under, former pro cyclist Robbie McEwen was on hand to explain the inner workings of the peloton as they raced towards winning crucial UCI WorldTour points. In the second of a six-part series, we'll be looking back over the tactics and skills employed by the peloton on Staging Connections Stage 2.

The second stage of the 2017 Santos Tour Down Under was heralded as one of the most challenging stages ever put forward in the event's history. 

The 148.5km stage began with five laps of an undulating circuit around Stirling before the peloton set off through the Adelaide Hills to Paracombe. A sharp descent on Norton Summit and a Subaru King of the Mountain climb up Torrens Hill Road just metres before the finish line would provide for tough racing and thrilling spectating.

Commentator and former professional cyclist Robbie McEwen explained that, although the stage was technically challenging, it would only be as hard as the riders decided to make it.

“It all depends on how the riders go about it,” he told Wide World of Sports’ Tim Gilbert.

“What the team decides to do, who wants to make the race very hard.”

“What we often see on a stage like this are attacks around the circuit in Stirling, trying to get off the front and rely on a bit of a Mexican stand-off in the peloton behind; get let go, or go in search of some seconds.”

McEwen explained that the breakaway, formed by ambitious, fast riders, will try to set a fast pace in an attempt tire out their competitors.

“We see those early breakaways, maybe even a team like Movistar, trying to force the pace and make the stage really hard,” said Robbie.

“They’ll try to drain the legs of some of the faster sprinters that also climb well, like Simon Gerrans (ORICA-SCOTT).

“By the time they get to this final hill though, that’s when they’ll try to really pull this race apart.”

McEwen said the descent on Norton Summit Road would be fast and furious, and position is vital if you want to stay in contention for the final climb.

“They’ll be touching speeds of up to 100 km/h today going down there,” he said.

“The bunch will be completely strung out. It’s also not just the hills that riders need to worry about, but that downhill; if it splits, you’ll have to chase, waste energy, it could be quite dangerous.

“The last thing you want to do is fall off going at those sort of speeds, so this stage really has a bit of everything. 

“But what the riders are definitely thinking about is that approach to the final climb and Gorge Road.

“Two years ago they came down Gorge Road to approach this climb, this year they come up it. 

“So it’ll be about positioning the team’s climber, getting them to the front of the bunch, saving as much energy as possible.”

As the peloton began their climb up Gorge Road ahead of the Subaru King of the Mountain climb on Torrens Hill Road, McEwen explained that the final climb needs to have a decisive climber in control.

“Two years ago, Richie Porte, he was the aggressor,” said McEwen.

“He went on the attack, but then we saw somewhat of an indecisive group of leaders, all looking at each other, they fanned across the road. 

“Richie Porte, he told me today, ‘I’m not going to do that again, I’m going to go hard all the way.’ 

“As they fanned across on this climb two years ago, and all started looking at each other, it enabled Rohan Dennis to come back into contention and then spring somewhat of a surprise, he attacked up the left hand side, he got the gap. 

“Richie, Cadel, they just watched him ride away, and he held on all the way to the finish.”

McEwen said that decisiveness and timing is key for the stage win today, as this could set up the leader for the rest of the Tour.

“And what’s really important about this stage is not just losing time and trying to be up near the front, but if you can win the stage there’s also a ten second time bonus on the finish line,” he said.

“That helped Rohan Dennis win this race two years ago. 

“So there’s a lot going on – tough climbs, there’s fast descents, there’s time bonuses; a very tactical stage today.”

BMC Racing Team’s Richie Porte broke clear in the final 1500 metres to claim the Subaru King of the Mountain and the stage honours by 16 seconds in front of Gorka Izaguirre of Movistar Team. 

Porte told reporters after the race that, although he’d secured a strong lead on the General Classification, he wouldn’t be celebrating just yet.

“There’s some stressful days coming up so I won’t be counting our chickens until they hatch,” he said.

“We didn’t really race that hard around Stirling which is a bit of a shame but at the end of the day I think I got a good gap on GC.

“I know it’s not over, there’s a few quite hard stages but the guys, the team, are fantastically strong so I’m quite confident.”

Related content:

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Talking Tactics - Staging Connections Stage 2 2017
Talking Tactics - Staging Connections Stage 2 2017
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