It wasn’t a fairy tale finish for the king of Willunga Hill, Richie Porte but he managed to sign off in style in an emotional Saturday for the Tasmanian.
Angus Lyons from ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast won the uphill stage of the Santos Festival of Cycling’s grand finale after a McLaren Vale start.
Riding Willunga Hill for the last time as a professional cyclist, Porte still wowed the masses that turned up to farewell the legend after making his mark at the Tour Down Under as a rookie wildcard in 2008.
“This climb is one of the most iconic climbs in world cycling and looking to the future like (INEOS Grendadiers teammate) Luke Plapp, there’s some really good kids coming through and it’s exciting for cycling,’’ Porte who turns 37 on Sunday said.
“In this peloton, you know we could see the next Cadel Evans that is going to win the Tour de France, it’s been awesome to be a part of it.
“I think I’ll be back in one way or another with the kids and maybe drinking a Coopers Pale Ale at the bottom or the top of Willunga.
“I love Adelaide, my plan is to try and get to the race at some point and enjoy Adelaide for the city it is and not have all the pressure of a bike race.
“Stuart O’Grady (Santos Tour Down Under race director) and Brad McGee, they really helped me become professional with Saxobank back in the day.
“To have Stuey talking to me about my career is absolutely fantastic.
“This is the best organised race on the calendar bar none, the crowds are really fantastic and the ride up Willunga I enjoyed it for once.”
Porte ended the Festival of Cycling in 19th place overall.
He is now focussing on the Giro D’Italia and Tirreno Adriatico and wants to win a bike race before ending his career, aiming for the Tour of Britain as his last WorldTour race this year.
Although Lyons took out the stage, Porte’s seven-time stage crown wasn’t challenged by UCI WorldTour teams for the second year running due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
James Whelan became the new national road series champion at the Santos Festival of Cycling after BikeExchange-Jayco’s Luke Durbridge won the GC in 2021.
While Lyons team rode the perfect race which essentially was split in two as Team Bridgelane produced the stage winner.
Whelan had the leader’s jersey since stage 1 was completed.
Despite being docked 60 seconds by the commissaires on Thursday, he still managed to keep his lead alongside teammate Matt Dinham in an incredible one, two finish for Bridgelane.
Jumbo-Visma’s Chris Harper, riding for Villawood, finished third overall and last year’s Santos Festival of Cycling champion Durbridge was fifth overall, 49 seconds behind Whelan.
“I feel amazing, I was a little bit stressed, but now I’ve got the jersey,’’ Whelan said.
“Whether I race WorldTour or ProTour this year, I’m not too fussed.
“I have done everything I can do, and I have had a blast racing with Bridgelane, we get to Europe in April and hopefully we can keep winning bike races.”
With Whelan eager to re-join the UCI WorldTour ranks again, Lyons was ecstatic that his team did all the hard work in what was deemed an upset given Porte was the sentimental favourite to win after he claimed the stage in 2021.
Lyons finished the 2021 Willunga stage in seventh place.
"We came close last year, with a similar sort of situation, just not as much gap on the bottom, so it was nice to finish it off," said Lyons, who took the win after his teammate Declan Trezise drove the break to the base of the Willunga climb.
"Declan rode an insane ride to keep us away there.
“He did an amazing job to get me there with three minutes up my sleeve."
Ben Hill won the Shimano King of the Mountain jersey to keep on what he deemed “a working holiday” tour.
Within minutes of being paraded on the podium, Hill was expected to drive back home to Canberra with his family, ready to start work on Monday.
WESTPAC RIDE OF THE DAY
BE SAFE BE SEEN STAGE 3 MCLAREN VALE TO WILLUNGA- 113.2km
SANTOS GENERAL CLASSIFICATION WINNER
1. James Whelan - Team Bridgelane
2. Matt Dinham - Team Bridgelane
3. Chris Harper - Team Villawood
Angus Lyons - ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast
SANTOS LEADER’S JERSEY
James Whelan - Team Bridgelane
ZIPTRAK SPRINT JERSEY
Benjamin Dyball – Team AUS II
SHIMANO KING OF THE MOUNTAIN JERSEY
Ben Hill - CCS Cycling
CERVELO YOUNG RIDER’S JERSEY
Matt Dinham - Team Bridgelane
WILSON PARKING WINNING TEAM