Richie Porte will bid farewell to Willunga Hill as a professional cyclist, but the sentimental favourite has a battle to win the final stage of the Santos Festival of Cycling.
After Blake Quick won the Westpac stage 2 from Mount Lofty to Woodside –his fifth win from seven races this year which includes the under 23 national road title on Friday, all eyes on Saturday are on Porte.
Porte has won eight WorldTour stages at Willunga and Paracombe.
Race leader James Whelan said Porte’s farewell would be fitting for the legend.
However Whelan was upset at race officials keen to claim the 2022 Festival of Cycling GC.
Team Bridgelane’s Whelan had 60 seconds docked from his incredible solo stage 1 win at Lobethal.
It turned his unassailable lead into a potential stage fight to the end at Willunga.
“It’s super disappointing,’’ Whelan said after he was forced to change his bike near the start of stage 1.
“The circumstances are pretty unethical, we have no right to appeal, the commissaire failed to recognise my mechanical problem when the race was in neutral in the first place.
“There is a national road series rule where you can only motor pace for 2km, and I was five minutes behind the peloton after neutral.
“Those rules seem to be quite inappropriate, it’s disappointing for me, the team, our sponsors and for the race itself.
“Everyone wants a fair race and I have lost a minute and I worked pretty hard to get a minute and a half (lead) up the road.
“Just for the commissaire to influence the race like that under these circumstances, it’s ridiculous, but there is nothing I can do I have to focus on the bike race.”
The former UCI WorldTour rider with ES Education-Nippo ended stage 2 by keeping out of trouble, ensuring realistic GC rivals weren’t going to trouble his lead.
Whelan is 25 seconds ahead of second-placed Ben Hill from CCS Cycling who kept the King of the Mountain jersey.
And with Porte lurking in his competitive racing swansong in SA and his INEOS Grenadiers teammate Luke Plapp capable of shredding the race to pieces, Whelan won’t have an easy final stage.
“I’ve got the legs to do it and I have a really good team and there is no reason why I won’t be speaking to you (media) about the GC tomorrow (Saturday),’’ Whelan said.
Plapp was among the first to congratulate Quick who also won the Trek Night Riders Criterium on the streets of Adelaide on Wednesday night.
“At the end of last year, I stayed in his (Plapp’s) place in Andorra,’’ Quick said.
“After I broke my collarbone, I wanted to make sure I was flying in January, and I put in a lot of work over there and I’m actually dating his sister.
“I have been living at their house (in Australia) since I got back.
“It’s good to show I’m not a one-trick pony and I’m strong as well as fast.
“I’m willing to race hard go long and take a risk.
”As the main GC contenders kept every potential protagonist in check for most of the 112.9km stage, Benjamin Dyball, Dylan Sunderland and Carter Bettles raced from the front.
The trio traded three Ziptrak sprint intermediate sprints.
But it was Dyball (AUS II) who now wears the Ziptrak sprint jersey for the final stage ahead of Sunderland (Westpac) and Bettles (Ara Pro Racing Sunshine Coast).
WESTPAC RIDE OF THE DAY
WESTPAC STAGE 2 MOUNT LOFTY TO WOODSIDE - 112.9km
Blake Quick - Inform TMX Make
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