Defending Tour Down Under champion Rohan Dennis is the leader of the BMC team at this year’s race, but as it approaches halfway his team’s two-pronged attack plan with Richie Porte is still in active mode.
Like last year when the now retired Cadel Evans was BMC’s leader and Dennis their second option before he took the lead with his stage three win on the climb to Paracombe, the team is keeping an open mind as Thursday’s third stage looms.
The climb to Paracombe is not in this year’s route, but stage three – 139km from Glenelg to Campbelltown – should be as crucial with the steep, twisting Corkscrew climb 5.7km from the finish and an equally challenging decent of it.
Hence, BMC general manager Jim Ochowicz said on Wednesday during the 132km second stage from Unley to Stirling when asked about Porte’s role or chances: “Nobody is going to put the brakes on.
“This sport is pretty unpredictable. You have to take chances when they are there. A two-pronged approach in a race like this gives us an opportunity. We had it last year with Cadel and Rohan. It worked fine.”
Soon after Ochowicz spoke, Dennis showed his desire to leave an early mark by placing third on the stage behind Queensland winner Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff) who pipped Italian Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) to win.
The finale was marred by a crash inside the last 500m that took out Victorian favourite Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE), who did not sustain serious injury and because the crash occurred inside the last three kilometres did not lose time.
During the day, Gerrans also picked up five seconds on time bonuses at two intermediate sprints, while McCarthy, Ulissi and Dennis collected a 10, six and four second bonuses respectively for their first to third placings on the stage.
As a result, McCarthy leads the tour overall by four seconds over Ulissi, while Gerrans is third overall at five seconds and Dennis fourth at six seconds. Porte, meanwhile, is 58th at 10 seconds with 82 other riders.
With the Corkscrew on Thursday and the stage-five finish to the top of Willunga Hill on Saturday, there is plenty of opportunity for any number of riders to win the race.
Hence, BMC’s two-pronged attack, where Dennis and Porte can take their chances, or cover the moves of their rivals for each other to still keep BMC in the hunt.
Dennis’ strong finish showed he is in good form, but he conceded that he may not have placed third had there not been the crash involving Gerrans, South African Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Lieuwe Westra (Astana).
“The plan was to stay out of trouble – if I was up there, with a chance to sprint, I would. That ended up happening,” Dennis said.
“If the crash hadn’t happened, I probably wouldn’t have been third.
“I was a little too far back and I was lucky enough to miss that [crash].
“I was probably the first person not to hit it. Everyone else got caught up, at least, and I was the first one to get around.”