As is tradition at the Tour Down Under, the overall victory looks set to be decided by the familiar ascent of Wilunga Hill, sending the favourites up its slopes twice in an attempt to shake out 2018’s champion from the bunch. The climb itself lasts for 3km, and though it averages a tame 5%, the steepest sections do creep just beyond 9% during the first half of the ascent. Tackling it twice after leaving McLaren Vale will be a test given the recent weather conditions and there will be little chance to hide a lack of early season form when ascending the scorching slopes near the end of the 151.5km queen stage.
Richie Porte loves this climb and is the clear favourite to win once again, especially given an encouraging glimpse of his condition so early in the year. He is in a feisty mood to contest the overall victory, perhaps appreciating that such a depth of talent will require him to ride more aggressively in order to guarantee a stage win. No rider knows this climb as well as Porte, and with that in mind, it shall be tough to look beyond him for the victory.
Jay McCarthy has been promised the full backing of his team today and should be one of the main protagonists during the climb of Wilunga Hill. He has offered little during the Tour Down Under to justify serious backing, but his performance at the National Road Race Championships still seems enough to highlight him as a real challenger. Such a strong team of riders around him is an immense advantage on a day where saving every last watt of effort is crucial, keeping him fresh for one decisive attack.
Daryl Impey is enjoying some good early season form and could prove a rider well worth watching on Wilunga Hill as his condition could take bigger names by surprise. He is certainly not a pure climber, but should have enough to cling to their wheels and hope to outgun them in a reduced sprint to the finish line.
Diego Ulissi possesses a consistent record on this stage over the years, though never seems capable of converting that into an eventual victory by the finish. Once again he is a name worth considering here, but a disappointing showing up to now does little to suggest he shall steal the show on Wilunga Hill.
Domenico Pozzovivo is very talented at coping with these climbs, looking relatively sharp right now and unlikely to think twice about taking the opportunity to open up a gap to his rivals during the final moments. We have often seen the Italian rider following all the major attacks from the big names in grand tour racing, but rarely does he ever manage to better them, making it a gamble to back Pozzovivo as the day’s winner on Stage 5
Others to consider include Luis Leon Sanchez, Enric Mas, Pierre Latour, Tom Jelte-Slagter and Rui Costa.
1st Richie Porte 2nd Domenico Pozzovivo 3rd Jay McCarthy