2020 Santos Tour Down Under Rider Analysis
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Richie Porte – The Tasman was the odds on favorite to win the Ochre Jersey coming into the race. It was his second time winning the Tour Down Under, which he last won in 2017. It was Daryl Impey who took the title the past two years. Porte looked very strong with a dominant win on Stage 3’s steep hilltop finish where he made an aggressive move to ride the other GC contenders off his wheel. Heading into the final stage on Willunga Hill it was Porte’s race to lose, a stage win would mean a tour victory. A very deep breakaway which maintained a 2:30 lead until well under 10km left in the race was the only thing between Porte and his 7th consecutive win on Willunga Hill. Porte systematically rode the peloton off his wheel, outclassing the other GC riders and dropping what remained of the breakaway, except for Matt Holmes of Lotto Soudal. Holmes was able to catch Porte’s wheel as he passed him with 600 to go and pass him back over the crown of the hill to take the stage. Regardless of Holmes stage win, this is Porte’s stage, and it’s time to rename Willunga Hill, Richies Rock.
2020 is the first time Porte has won since 2017, that year he was among the favorites in the Tour de France and raced well early before crashing out in a nasty crash descending a mountain on stage 9, he was challenging for the overall lead at the time. 2020 could be the year that Porte cracks the top 10 in the Tour de France for what would, be just the 2nd time. He was 5th in the 2016 edition of the tour and 11th last year following consecutive crash outs on stage 9 of the 2017 and 2018 tours.
Porte has struggled in the grand tours and doesn’t seem to respond well to the pressure of being a favorite. At 34 with this great start to his season this may be do or die for Porte, but the Trek-Segafredo team is looking very strong this year, rostering World Champion Mads Pedersen, young Italian Giulio Ciccone who wore yellow for a stage in last year’s tour, and Vincenzo Nibali to transferred from Bahrain Merida in the offseason.
Porte will not have the pressure of podium expectations at the tour, and while Nibali won’t be riding in support of him, the team is strong enough to set both riders up to compete for top 10 positions at the tour. This will be the year that Richie Porte grabs his second top 10 position in the Tour de France, despite an incredibly deep field.
Daryl Impey – Now 35, Impey is still looking strong, fighting for bonus times on stage 5 to overtake the Ochre Jersey while battling World Champion Mads Pedersen. Impey is comes off a big 2019 campaign with Michelton-Scott where we won his first ever stage in the Tour de France. His legs, surely tired from his stage 5 efforts betrayed him on Willunga Hill, but I’d look for Impey to get away on some punchy stages of the Tour de France and try to outlast the riders for his second stage title this summer.
Rohan Dennis – The Adelaide local was the subject of a lot of scrutiny after his mysterious exit from the Tour de France last summer. He abandoned the race in the middle of stage 12 while in a breakaway. It later came out that he was upset about the equipment that the Bahrain Merida team had provided him. He of course went on to win his second consecutive world time trial championship last September in Yorkshire while riding an unmarked BMC bike, it was no surprise that two weeks later he and Bahrain Merida announced they were parting ways. It was suprising to see team Ineos pick him up. It will be interesting to see his journey with the team, he has stated his top goal is to win Olympic Gold in the Time Trial. With no TTT in this year’s Tour de France, it’s likely that he rides the Giro d’ Italia before focusing on the Olympics where he will win the Gold Medal in the Time Trial.
Romain Bardet – Bardet is starting his season earlier than ever before as he looks to make a big rebound in 2020. Bardet had a challenging 2019 campaign, falling out of GC contention in the Tour de France quite early and getting massively overshadowed by Julian Alaphilippe and Thibaut Pinot. He pivoted his strategy and salvaged his tour, winning the KOM competition. Following 5 straight years of top 10 finishes from 2013-2017 including a 2nd in 2016 and 3rd in 2017 Bardet has been trending in the wrong direction. In an effort to reset he is starting his season early and will target the Giro d ’Italia for the first time.
I don’t think the Maglia Rosa will be on Bardet’s shoulders at the end of the Giro, and it will be a challenge for him to even reach the podium with the likes of Richard Carapaz, last year’s winner now riding for Ineos, the multiple threats that Jumbo-Vismo can send, amongst other teams top riders. Regardless, we do hope to see him close in contention and riding like the Bardet of 2016-17 once again.
Caleb Ewan – The big winner of the sprints and certainly a favorite sprinter for the Tour de France. Ewan appears to have gained even more form since last season which will serve him well in the more technical finishing sprints. His top end speed was the best at the Tour Down Under and it will be great to watch him head to head against Dylan Groenewegen in the Tour de France. This summer Caleb has the form to again win two stages of the Tour de France.
Elia Viviani – Former lead sprint man for Deceuninck-Quickstep the two years prior winning 4 stages of the Giro and 3 stages of the Vuelta a Espana in 2018 and in 2019 won his first stage in the Tour de France. Lots of questions emerged about why someone would leave the post of lead sprinter for Quickstep as their recent lead sprinters have enjoyed great successes (Fernando Gaviria, Marcel Kittel), followed by rapidly diminishing results after leaving the team.
Stage 1 of the Tour Down Under was a great opportunity for Viviani to go head to head vs. new Quickstep sprinter Sam Bennett and prove that the move to Cofidis would not be for naught, but it was Sam Bennett who took the day. It was downhill for Viviani after that, crashing on the second stage and never finishing in contention on the subsequent stage. It was a rough start for Viviani, but he does have a strong leadout train and he will win his 2nd stage of the Tour de France this summer.
Sam Bennett – A big win on the first stage and two other strong sprints show that Bennett is up to the task. The pressure it off and Bennett can focus on perfecting his teamwork with the Quickstep leadout. Bennett has 5 grand tour stage wins under his belt, but none at the Tour de France. That will change this summer.
Andre Greipel – Keeping the dream alive at 37 years of age and riding for a new team this year; Israel Start-up Nation, Greipel looks to find his form of old. He heads into the 2020 season as one of the most decorated sprinters in the peloton with 22 grand tour stage wins to his name, 11 of them at the Tour de France. Greipel has not taken a grand tour stage win since the 2017 Giro d ‘Italia where we won the 2nd stage, nevertheless, team Israel Start-up Nation is all-in for Greipel. While he never contended for a win he did have three finishes inside the top 6 at the Tour Down Under. Greipel’s grand tour stage wins are now behind him, but we love seeing him compete at a high level in the late stages of his legendary career.
- Richie Porte finishes Top-10 in the Tour De France
- Rohan Dennis wins Olympic Gold in the Time Trial
- Romain Bardet misses the podium in the Giro d ‘Italia
- Caleb Ewan wins two stages of the Tour de France
- Elia Viviani wins his second stage of the Tour de France
- Sam Bennett wins his first stage of the Tour de France
- Andre Greipel does not win another grand tour stage