Dennis Wins Five-Man Sprint; Takes Overall Lead at Tour Down Under
Stage 2 of the 2023 Santos Tour Down Under was a 154.8-kilometer mountainous ride from Brighton to Victor Harbor, near Adelaide in South Australia. The route featured the category 1 climb Nettle Hill (2 km, 7.8%) and the category 2 climb called Parawa Hill (3 km, 6.9%).
The Tour Down Under peloton was split into pieces on the short, yet intense, 1-kilometer Heatherdale Hill, whose 8.7 percent average gradient took its toll on many riders early in the 2023 season.
After having regrouped, the peloton was again fractured on Nettle Hill – the final major climbing challenge of the day. The eventual outcome of the stage was heavily influenced by attacks on Nettle Hill that caused a decisive five-man breakaway group to form. The group featured Simon Yates (Team Jayco-AlUla), Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates), Rohan Dennis (Team Jumbo-Visma), and Mauro Schmid (Soudal-QuickStep Team) and the strong group gradually increased its lead over a diminished chasing group.
The stage winner would be found in a battle between the five men in the front group. Hindley put in a powerful attack that appeared difficult to respond to, but Dennis used his power to create a gap that proved impossible to bridge for the other challengers for the stage win.
Dennis soloed across the finish line with one hand pointing towards the sky and was followed by a disappointed Vine two seconds later. Schmid finished third, followed by Yates and Hindley.
"I picked up the pace on the final ascent to catch up to Yates and Vine, who had already fled. I didn't expect a breakaway attempt on that climb would go to the line, so I'm glad I was a part of that. In hindsight, it turns out I gambled well there.”
“The run-in was quite tricky. With that, it was hard as a team to take control. I seized the opportunity and jumped to the head of the race. The cooperation in the breakaway group went well," stage winner Dennis told Roadcycling.com
Dennis was thankful to his teammates for their support and loyalty. “To lose Robert Gesink yesterday was obviously a big loss, but the guys rallied around me and did a brilliant job today one man down. I couldn’t be happier with how the guys raced for me.”
Runner-up Vine told Roadcycling.com he had had planned an attack on Nettle Hill since the team briefing the night before. “We saw that climb in the briefing last night and knew that if we had the right group over the top that it had a chance to go to the line. We worked really cohesively until the finish and had mutual benefit and giving our all. It’s pretty cool to go in with a team plan to make the race like we did.”
Vine still hopes to advance further in the general classification. “There is still three days to go and the harder climbs are still to come, so I’m excited for it and have great ambitions.”
Dennis now leads the Tour Down Under general classification. Vine is three seconds behind. Ineos-Grenadiers’ Magnus Sheffield remains third, twelve seconds behind.
Caleb Ewan (Team Lotto-Dstny) won the sprint in the chasing group and thereby took the lead in the points competition.