South African Daryl Impey from Mitchelton-Scott overall winner of the Tour Down Under. Picture: Kelly Barnes/AAP
South African Daryl Impey from Mitchelton-Scott overall winner of the Tour Down Under. Picture: Kelly Barnes/AAP

Emotional drive behind Impey’s back-to-back TDU win

You can measure the power two legs produce on the bike but you cannot measure the emotional forces that were driving Daryl Impey to the top of Willunga Hill on Sunday as he became the first rider to win back-to-back Tour Down Under titles.

He wanted to "do it for Justin" - a family friend who died suddenly of a heart attack just as Impey was leaving South Africa this month.

He wanted to "do it for Matty" - retiring teammate Mathew Hayman who the team was desperate to send out a winner in his last professional race.

He wanted to "do it for the team" - Mitchelton-Scott which told him after being a surprise winner of the ochre jersey last year he would return with an entire team behind him in 2019.

And he also wanted to do it for himself.

At 34, Impey proved again that he is one of the best all-rounders in the WorldTour peloton by sprinting and then climbing his way to consecutive victories by 13 seconds over Richie Porte and 17 seconds over Wout Poels.

"It's special, I never dreamt I'd come here and win twice in a row, it's fantastic," Impey said.

"This year when they said 'we're going to back you with a full team and hopefully we go back-to-back' I thought that would be nice but I knew the competition is always tough.

"I just believed in myself and the team believed in me and it was fantastic to pull it off.

"There's no doubt coming into the race I was pretty down, but the guys picked me up and a lot of my family back home were saying 'do it for Justin' and we did.

"And also with it being Matty Hayman's last race, this is special, we were going to celebrate tonight anyway and to have lots of reasons makes it even more special … I'm so happy."

Porte won the Willunga Hill stage for an incredible sixth consecutive time with two vicious attacks in the final 2km and he has now finished second overall four times as Impey launched off teammate Lucas Hamilton's wheel and crossed the line third on the same time as the Tasmanian.

"It's a hard race for a rider like me to win, it's a shame there wasn't another hilltop finish through the week but to win six in a row with a new team Trek-Segafredo is a nice way to start," Porte said.

"It's just a lovely day out there, you kind of pinch yourself riding through the crowds.

"You've got to climb better than the sprinters and then sprint better than the climbers, it suited me two years ago with the Paracombe climb but it's just nice to get a victory - the team was fantastic there today.

"After that it was hard to take it up myself after those guys (Team Sky), and to be honest I thought I'd had it there, but when I heard on the radio everyone was suffering it was a second wind.

"But I tell you what the last 300m of Willunga is the longest 300m - it really hurt - but it was a sweet victory."

Courageously, overnight race leader Patrick Bevin was on the start line for Stage 6 in McLaren Vale after his heavy crash the day before, but cruelly was unable to exert maximum effort on the climb and finished 41st, over five minutes down.

Impey, one of the most likeable riders in the peloton who ordered the bunch to sit up and wait for Bevin when he crashed coming into Strathalbyn on Saturday, said he felt for him.

"I felt sorry for Paddy, it's very unfortunate, I was looking forward to a nice battle with him today," Impey said.

"I feel he was a little bit robbed of the race, but that's bike racing … but he's got guts, coming to the start line today you could see he was hurting, you could see he wasn't in a good way, he's probably been the most consistent at this bike race and would have been a really deserving winner."

Bevin didn't hide his disappointment at the finish but vowed to come back.

"I'm a bit beat up, a bit sore, but crashes are part of racing and it's such a shame to have it come tumbling down but there'll be another race and if nothing else I'll be back at the Tour Down Under next year ready to roll my sleeves up and box on again."

reece.homfray@news.com.au

News Corp Australia


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