Stage 5 of the Tour Down Under was the much anticipated GC stage to Willunga Hill and all the pre stage hype did not leave spectators disappointed. As Richie Porte (BMC Racing) won the stage and secured the overall leaders classification too, our Nathan Haas was winning hearts with an astonishing 2nd place finish on the stage. 3rd place went the way of Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott).
The Queen stage of the 2017 Santos Tour Down Under may have covered a total distance of 151km but everyone knew it was going to be the final 5km that really mattered today, with the ascent of Willunga Hill to the finish line. The famous Australian climb had to in fact, be covered twice today as the race went over the summit for the first time with 30km to go.
As the race descended old Willunga Hill, there was still the stages early break of 4 riders just hanging on to a slender lead over the peloton. Team Sky, Orica-Scott and BMC Racing led the way down and on the loop back around to the start of Willunga Hill once again. The fire power from these 3 squads was always going to be too much for the early leaders and they were caught, as expected, before the final 5km of the stage.
It was a full blooded leadout into the bottom of the climb and our African Team was working to place our GC hope, Haas, into a good position before the road pointed upward. As Team Sky hit the ramp first, Haas was looking good as he maneuvered his way onto the wheel of Porte, and 5th in line. The early pace on the climb was ferocious though and after only a kilometer of climbing, Haas was in difficulty.
The writing seemed to be on the wall for Haas when he could no longer hold his place in the line and was dropped from the lead group of riders. As Sergio Henao (Team Sky) and later, Porte went attacking up the climb Haas was out of sight of the small GC group. As we were watching Porte solo to another impressive win, Haas managed to find his 2nd wind on the steepest part of the climb.
After Porte crossed the line solo, the camera panned back to the race for 2nd place with everyone expecting the likes of Chaves, Henao and Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe) to be rounding the final left hand bend in the fight for 2nd but out of nowhere it was Haas. The Dimension Data for Qhubeka rider pulled himself inside out to latch onto the favourites in the final 100 meters and proceeded to then win the small group gallop which also saw him move up the overall classification to hold 3rd place, behind Porte and Chaves.
Nathan Haas – Rider
I am just so excited. When I went across the line the I had lost count of how many guys there were ahead of me. I was looking for guys and I didn’t even know where I came but I knew I was in front of the guys that I had to beat. I had a really bad moment about a kilometer into the climb and I thought, oh no. I had been practicing breathing exercises all off season from a swimming coach so that was in the back of my head so I went to that and the oxygen made its way back to my legs. From there I just went up, up, up. I was asking myself the questions I wanted to hear, you never ask yourself does this hurt or can I get through this but your subconscious always wants to. So today I was just asking the questions I wanted to hear and then once I got to the front of the group I put it in a bigger gear and went all in.