Stage 2 to Stirling had the potential to open up the overall classification at the Tour Down Under but in the end the finish came down to a reduced bunch sprint with Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) winning ahead of his teammate Daryl Impey and Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe).
For the defending champion Richie Porte (BMC), it was a relatively calm day in the saddle and despite the brutally hot conditions, and the frantic finale, the Australian was relatively happy with the stage.
“The aim was to try and keep out of trouble but in the end Simon Gerrans and Danilo Wyss really sacrificed and did a fantastic job for me. There was a headwind and it was nice to see Caleb win. I’m not really surprised though, he was climbing well at the nationals so it’s good to see,” Porte told Cyclingnews.
The day started out in a relatively calm fashion with a small break going clear and the sprinters’ teams marshalling the main field. BMC, despite their stature as the race favourites, were able to sit back as others looked to bring the fight to them.
Porte can now look forward to the stage 5 to Willunga Hill to mount his attack for a second consecutive overall victory. While there are intermediate stages where bonus seconds can be shipped, the Australian has only lost four seconds to Impey, and two to McCarthy and three to Nathan Haas.
“It was a tricky little course but as they say it’s another day closer to the weekend,” Porte said.
When television images showed Steve Morabito (FDJ) clutching his right shoulder and sitting on the tarmac on stage 2 of the Tour Down Under, everyone predicted that the Swiss rider would leave the race with a broken collarbone. Everyone but Morabito, it seems.
As the peloton pushed through the heat and towards the finish in Stirling, leaving Morabito behind, medics rushed to the rider’s aid. When he made it to his feet he immediately knew what he had done and as he stood over his bike, and gripping the bars tightly, he and his team staff yanked his shoulder into place.
“I did it by myself. The guys behind in the ambulance don’t want to do it, I know how to do it and so I did it by myself with the help of my team,” Morabito told Cyclingnews and CyclingTips at the finish.
“I grabbed my handlebar and some guys were keeping my bike straight and I just pushed a little bit the shoulder and it came in. It was really painful before and when it’s come in it’s again ok.”
By the time Morabito had crossed the line most of teammates had left for the race hotel, some 45 minutes drive from the finish of stage 2. However, with his young family in Australia, Morabito took time to play with his young daughter and catch up with his directuer sportif. He barely had a scratch on him when two journalists approached him, but indicated that he would ride the full distance back to the team hotel and then be assessed ahead of Thursday’s stage.
“I’ll ride to the Hilton and after I will see tonight and I hope to start again tomorrow. Now it’s ok. It’s a bit sore I will say. First I touched my collarbone and felt it was nothing on it and I realised the shoulder was just sitting in the front and it was very clear … no doubt it’s this.”
Stage 3 of the Tour Down Under has been shortened by 26km due to forecasted temperatures of 40 degrees and above. The stage was due to finish with three circuits in Victor Habor but will instead only feature one. The adjusted stage length will be 120.5 kilometres.
The decision was made by race director Mike Turtur in consultation with Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA) representative Adam Hansen and UCI race commissaires. Stage 1 of the 2017 Tour Down Under was also shortened due to extreme heat with Turtur enacting the UCI Extreme Weather protocol.
The planned Bupa Family Ride has also been cancelled due to the expected challenging conditions.
“The safety and welfare of the riders, spectators and everyone involved with the race is always our primary concern,” said Turtur. “We consulted with rider representative Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal) and with our Chief Commissaire, and both agreed it would be sensible to shorten the stage distance.”
There is also extreme fire danger warnings for tomorrow around Victor Harbor and severe danger ratings across the state.
Stage 3 of the race will still start in the seaside suburb of Glenelg and travel south to Victor Harbor. The stage was won last year by Caleb Ewan in cold, windy and wet conditions. Ewan will be wearing the ochre jersey as race leader for Thursday’s stage.