CCC Team's Patrick Bevin shocked the sprint favourites at Stage 2 of the Tour Down Under, not only proving that he is the man to beat this year but also granting CCC Team their first ever WorldTour victory.
Just like yesterday's Stage one, today's route was also shortened due to the extreme heat they are experiencing in South Australia, with the revised distance amounting to 122.1km. It didn't take long after the flag for UniSA-Australia to go on the attack (a staple of pretty much every TDU) with KOM leader Jason Lea jumping off the front, joined by Arytom Zakharov (Astana) and a few moments later Jaime Castrillo (Movistar) also wanted some of the action.
Opening up a gap greater than 3 minutes, the trio contested the day's only KOM checkpoint, with Jason Lea schooling both Zakharov & Castrillo on how to climb and easing to maximum points on Checker Hill. It was Zakharov, however, that took the maximum points in the intermediate sprint shortly after in Birdwood and then again in Springton further up the road.
The breakaway were eventually caught with 55km to go at the San Remo Feed Zone. However, there was to be more breakaway action later on with Groupama - FDJ's Mathieu Ladagnous attempting an audacious solo bid on the run up to Mengler Hill (with it being a descent of it, opposed to the climb). His attempt was very admirable, knotching up a 2 minute lead ahead of the peleton, but was caught with just 2.8km remaining, with a bunch sprint now on the cards.
Team Sky (backing Halvorsen) and Team Sunweb (backing Max Walscheid) took control of the race in the closing kilometres, but couldn't prevent a late attack from Astana's Sánchez just 500m from the line. A big crash in the peleton ensued just moments after the attack (similar to the crash in the People's Choice Classic), taking out several riders and blocking the road for most - but the majority of the sprint favourites (Viviani, Ewan, Sagan, etc.) remained in a good position.
Patrick Bevin took advantage of Sánchez's attack (and his splitstream), countering it with 50m or so remaining to ease past the Spaniard to take the victory, with Caleb Ewan fighting for the consilation points behind him.
I said yesterday that Patrick Bevin could splip under the radar and be a big contender in the GC at the TDU, but I now think the opposite; the New Zealander is now one of the names to beat, being in flying form. If he can produce finishes like that on the more challenging mountain stages then he'll be keeping the Ochre jersey until the finish!
Official Results obtained from procyclingstats.com
Stage 2 Results;
GC Results after Stage 2;
Jersey Holders after Stage 2;
Leader's Jersey - Patrick Bevin (CCC Team)
Point's Jersey - Elia Viviani (Deceuninck - Quick Step)
KOM Jersey - Jason Lea (UniSA - Australia)
Young Rider's Jersey - Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal)
Team - UAE - Team Emirates