It was not a fairy tale finish for the king of Willunga Hill, Richie Porte, but he managed to sign off in style on an emotional Saturday for the Tasmanian.
Angus Lyons from ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast won the uphill stage of the Santos Festival of Cycling’s grand finale after a McLaren Vale start.
Riding Willunga Hill for the last time as a professional cyclist, Porte still wowed the masses that turned up to farewell the legend after making his mark at the Tour Down Under as a rookie wildcard in 2008.
“This climb is one of the most iconic climbs in world cycling and looking to the future like (INEOS Grenadiers teammate) Luke Plapp, there’s some really good kids coming through and it’s exciting for cycling,’’ Porte said.
“In this peloton, you know we could see the next Cadel Evans that is going to win the Tour de France, it’s been awesome to be a part of it.
“I think I’ll be back in one way or another with the kids and maybe drinking a Coopers Pale Ale at the bottom or the top of Willunga.
“I love Adelaide, my plan is to try and get to the race at some point and enjoy Adelaide for the city it is and not have all the pressure of a bike race.
“Stuart O’Grady (Santos Tour Down Under race director) and Brad McGee, they really helped me become professional with Saxobank back in the day.
“To have Stuey talking to me about my career is absolutely fantastic.
“This is the best organised race on the calendar bar none, the crowds are really fantastic and the ride up Willunga I enjoyed it for once.”
Porte ended the Festival of Cycling in 19th place overall.
He is now focussing on the Giro D’Italia and Tirreno Adriatico and wants to win a bike race before ending his career, aiming for the Tour of Britain as his last WorldTour race this year.
Although Lyons took out the stage, Porte’s seven-time stage crown wasn’t challenged by UCI WorldTour teams for the second year running due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
James Whelan (Team BridgeLane) became the new Santos Festival of Cycling champion after Team BikeExchange-Jayco’s Luke Durbridge won the GC in 2021.
Despite being docked 60 seconds by the commissaires on Thursday, he still managed to keep his lead after winning Stage 1 to cap off an incredible one, two finish for BridgeLane, with Matt Dinham finishing second overall.
Jumbo-Visma’s Chris Harper, riding for Villawood, finished third overall and last year’s Santos Festival of Cycling champion Durbridge was fifth overall, 49 seconds behind Whelan.
“I feel amazing, I was a little bit stressed, but now I’ve got the jersey,’’ Whelan said.
“Whether I race WorldTour or ProTour this year, I’m not too fussed.
“I have done everything I can do, and I have had a blast racing with BridgeLane, we get to Europe in April and hopefully we can keep winning bike races.”
Lyons was ecstatic that his team did all the hard work in what was deemed an upset given Porte was the sentimental favourite to win after he claimed the stage in 2021.
“We came close last year, with a similar sort of situation, just not as much gap on the bottom, so it was nice to finish it off,” said Lyons, who took the win after his teammate Declan Trezise drove the break to the base of the Willunga climb.
“Declan rode an insane ride to keep us away there.
“He did an amazing job to get me there with three minutes up my sleeve."
Ben Hill (CCS Cycling) won the Shimano King of the Mountain jersey to keep on what he deemed “a working holiday” tour.
Within minutes of being paraded on the podium, Hill was expected to drive back home to Canberra with his family, ready to start work on Monday.
Whelan’s spirited win in South Australia means he becomes the first National Road Series leader for 2022 should he remain in Team BridgeLane colours.
InForm TMX MAKE’s young climbing dynamo Rudy Porter will don the under-21 young rider’s jersey after finishing an impressive 4th overall.
What he said: “It’s a testament to everyone from our team to the riders, the staff our sponsors, our material sponsors.
“Everything is top notch and we have shown we are the best team here in Australia at the nationals and here at the Santos Festival of Cycling.
“That’s not easy to do, Australian talent is world class.
“I hope everyone sees that and I’m super proud of everyone.”
What he said: “This is what I do, I breakaway and try and hold it that was plan A and it worked out.
“I said to Declan about halfway round “I’m sick of this wind already we’re about 40km in, but it was always playing in the back of my mind.
“At the same time, I was glad I wasn’t in the peloton at the point because it sounded hard, a lot of attacks and sitting in the gutter.
“Being up in a group that was nice and cohesive was good in a stage like this.
“I was a losing way down in GC which helped me get up the road.”
What he said: “I wasn’t thinking about (winning) the sprint jersey at all (before the race).
“I was lucky that no one in the break had any points and I had the jersey once the break went.
“I just watched the riders that were close to me on points that weren’t in the break.
“I hope to go to Japan in March or April, my first race my team is talking about the Tour of Thailand.’
What he said: “We came here aiming to get a jersey and we got one, it’s a good result for the team.
“I start work on Monday so it’s nice the tour finishes on Saturday, so we’ve got an extra day to get back to Canberra.
“I took a couple of days off work which is nice, it’s a bit of a holiday which is really good I get to hang out with some mates and ride a bike race.
“It’s even more great that my wife and kid and my mum and dad came down and watched.
“It felt like a real holiday that I could share with my friends and family.
“It makes it far more special.
“I have won a few jerseys at the Herald Sun Tour and the sprint jerseys a few times and generally jerseys is what I hunt and for the team that was a big focus for us.
“It was a bonus to pick up a few stage podiums and to have a crack at the GC I got my hopes up, I was a little bit disappointed to how the climb went.”
What he said: “It was great having Jimmy (Whelan) at the front in the end.
“I did what I could from keeping that gap opening up and it was awesome having him up there.
“We lost him a little bit over the top of Willunga, but it was a privilege watching Richie Porte race here and I’m looking forward to racing here over the next few years.
“I’m heading to Europe from April until September and target some of the races over there.
“Hopefully I’ll keep the momentum going heading into Europe.
“In terms of having the exposure and having the white jersey at an event like this I can’t ask for more as an under 23 coming out of Australia.
“It’s an awesome privilege to wear the white jersey.”
Pictures: Russ Ellis and Adam Dormand