Starting the day with a nine point lead in the KOM classification, Rosskopf’s only hope of winning the jersey was to go in the breakaway for the fourth day and collect maximum points on the first ascent of Willunga Hill.
In a surprising move, a 26-rider breakaway featuring Rosskopf went clear in the early stages of the race and quickly built an advantage of four and a half minutes, which they maintained throughout the first 100 kilometers of racing.
At the foot of Willunga Hill, Rosskopf assumed his position at the front of the breakaway, climbing at a steady pace on the three-kilometer climb to lead the breakaway over the top and claim the maximum 16 points on offer to all but secure the jersey providing he finished the stage safely.
Meanwhile, back in the peloton the General Classification contenders were battling for position and in the process, allowed the reduced breakaway to increase their advantage and challenge for the stage win.
With Rosskopf only 58 seconds behind on the General Classification, he posed a serious threat and continued to hold the virtual race lead inside the final ten kilometers, when the gap to the peloton only just dropped below the two-minute mark.
At the foot of the climb, attacks came simultaneously from the breakaway and the peloton, which had closed the gap to the one-minute mark, with Rosskopf eventually being caught halfway up the climb.
Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) made his move just before the flamme rouge, which caused the majority of General Classification contenders to explode but true to his word, Geschke rode his own race and slowly clawed back the meters inside the final kilometers.
Matthew Holmes (Lotto Soudal), who was the sole survivor of the breakaway, was able to jump on Porte’s wheel in the last 300 meters and overtook Porte just before the line to win the stage, while Porte secured the ochre jersey.
Geschke’s strength and determination saw him overtake multiple riders in the final kilometer and cross the line in seventh place, just seven seconds behind Holmes and Porte, to move from seventh place to the podium, claiming a career-best WorldTour stage race result in the process.
Quotes from the Finish Line
“The jersey is a really good reward because it took a lot of work to get it, a lot of days in the breakaway. You set out with a goal and you start chipping away at it from day one and to be able to actually achieve it, it’s always super rewarding. Nothing is guaranteed. At the start of the stage we were really unsure because it could have played out like yesterday with the GC guys already hitting it really hard over the climb the first time and one of them taking all of the points. So, to have such a big breakaway with so many strong guys like that was the ideal scenario. I’m sure there was a lot of arguing going on behind about who was going to chase because it must have taken a big commitment to bring a breakaway that big back. So, for us, it was an ideal scenario to even make it to the first climb like that.
“In the very first team meeting we had, especially after we lost Paddy Bevin, we were looking around and started to asses what other opportunities we could take advantage of. In the build up to the race, we were all in for GC with Paddy because he was super last year and we were defending his lead for a few days. We pictured that coming into it with no other goals. We had to re-asses and the KOM jersey was one thing we could take advantage of, especially here because it is more or a breakaway jersey than a pure climbers’ jersey so, it was within our grasp. It could have been anyone in the first day or two, whoever got in the breakaway and started chipping away. I always love to get out in front of the race but after a few days of dong it, especially this early in the season without a couple of stage races in the legs, I was starting to wonder if I was really the guy to be able to do this every single day. You never know in January how you are going to respond.”
“It was a super positive surprise for me coming here as a helper and suddenly being in the role of a GC card. After Paracombe, I was seventh so that was already more than I expected before I came here. I had a super good day and I thought I did a good ride but finishing third is definitely a surprise. We were a bit nervous because Joey was not safe for the mountains jersey [at the beginning of the day] so we could have lost both of our goals, the top ten and mountains jersey. In the end, we can be super happy with how we rode together as a team all week. Joey, in particular, in the breakaway almost every day fighting hard so I am happy that he got what he deserved. For me, personally, last year I broke a lot of bones in the beginning of the season so it is super nice to start this season much better, with my best result ever in a WorldTour stage race.”
Jackson Stewart, Sports Director:
“We really couldn’t be happier with our performance here this week. When we lost Paddy Bevin, we had to re-focus and identify other goals, which isn’t always easy to do. We thought the KOM jersey would be an achievable target and a top ten on the General Classification with Simon Geschke would be possible. The team worked so well together and Joey battled every day for the KOM points so, it is definitely rewarding to get that jersey. Simon was already looking good after Paracombe but the way he rode today was really impressive. We couldn’t be happier to start the season at the first WorldTour race on the podium.”
Santos Tour Down Under
Stage 6: McLaren Vale > Willunga Hill (151.5km)
Top 3: 1. Matthew Holmes (Lotto Soudal), 2. Richie Porte (Trek Segafredo), 3. Manuele Boaro (Astana Pro Team)
CCC Team top 3: 7. Simon Geschke, 28. Joey Rosskopf, 57. Josef Černý
Top 3 on GC: 1. Richie Porte (Trek Segafredo), 2. Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), 3. Simon Geschke (CCC Team)
📷 Getty Images