Bilbao Wins Stage 3 of Tour Down Under as Vine Takes Overall Race Lead
Stage 3 of this year’s Santos Tour Down Under was a challenging 116.8-kilometer ride from Norwood to Campbelltown. The route featured mountainous terrain, including the category 2 Ashton Hill (9.7 kilometer; 4.1%) shortly after the start, the category 1 Checker Hill (2 kilometer; 6.4%) after 83 kilometers, plus the 2.4-kilometer Corkscrew with its average gradient of 9 percent, followed by a descent to the finish line in Campbelltown, Adelaide.
The race started in Norwood, in the outskirts of Adelaide and the peloton worked its way through the hilly terrain northeast of the city, before heading south and returning to Adelaide.
Team Jumbo-Visma’s race leader Rohan Dennis was hoping to take the overall victory in this year’s Tour Down Under following yesterday’s stage victory and his promising early-season form, yet his hopes of podium success were crushed by a mechanical issue with his bike, that forced him to make a bike change and then use his energy to make up for lost time.
On Corkscrew Hill Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) attacked in powerful fashion, hoping to make the most use of the maximum gradients of no less than fifteen percent. Vine quickly built a gap that only Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla) and eventually Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) were able to bridge. The trio reached the top as a united group, and they worked well together on the descent that followed with Vine delivering a strong performance in pursuit of the general classification lead and Yates and Bilbao watching each other as they eyed the stage victory.
The Vine, Yates and Bilbao trio were first to approach the finish line in Campbelltown. Vine led the trio with hopes of taking the overall race lead and gaining as many seconds as possible on his general classification competitors. Bilbao positioned himself behind Vine and then initiated a sprint that would bring him the stage victory.
Bilbao won the stage in 02:48:10 and gained ten bonus seconds. Yates followed Bilbao across the finish line. Vine finished third and his third-place finish was sufficient to take the general classification lead in Santos Tour Down Under 2023.
“I love it when a plan comes together. I couldn’t have done this without my loyal teammates who set it up for me. All I had to do was to go on the last hill so all credit to them, they did an amazing job,” race leader Vine told Roadcycling.com.
“There was a big group behind us, and we were aware they could come back, so we put our heads down and really pushed on at the front. It’s pretty special to be here wearing the leader jersey and hopefully take it home on Sunday. There are a couple of hard days ahead, so I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch,” Vine added.
Stage winner Bilbao was happy to deliver a strong result for his team following a disappointing performance in yesterday’s stage.
“Yesterday we were a bit disappointed because the race did not go as we expected, losing some seconds in the finish line. Today this was the best for me, short and explosive kicks with the fast descent until the finish line. I had some difficulty joining Yates and Vine. I really had to do my best to be able to reach them in the last 300 meters of the climb,” Bilbao explained.
“I knew I was going to have a good possibility of winning the stage, because Vine and Yates were also aiming for the overall ranking, while I was more focused on delivering the best sprint possible in order to try to win today. I really enjoy working with sports director Neil Stephens. He really looks into details. It is a pleasure to do his home race here in Australia and also to give this victory to him. He is going to be very proud of the guys and I.”
Michael Matthews confirmed his strong form by winning the sprint of the peloton for Team Jayco-AlUla) ahead of Sven Erik Bystrøm (Team Intermarche-Circus-Wanty). Matthews crashed with Magnus Sheffield (Ineos-Grenadiers) in yesterday’s stage 2 yet impressively proved unstoppable and recharged in today’s stage. Matthews’ promising performance caused him to take the points classification lead from Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Dstny) who finished 7 minutes and 33 seconds behind the stage winner.