Stage 5 of the 2017 Tour Down Under sees the peloton tackle the brutal-yet-annual Willunga Hill stage, which has been a major part of the race for the majority of the races existence.
The 151.5 kilometre journey from McLaren Vale to Willunga will ultimately decide who will win the race overall, and for my money, Richie Porte is the favourite.
The stage starts with the traditional circuits around McLaren Vale, incorporating the run up to Willunga Hill, before turning off at the foot of the climb and heading towards Aldinga Beach for the intermediate sprints.
This loop is completed three times, with the two intermediate sprints being along the coast at Snapper Point after 63 and 103.4 kilometres.
Traditionally, a break of around five riders gets up the road, and often holds their advantage till after the first crossing of Willunga Hill.
The third time coming into McLaren Vale signals the start of the final segment of the race, with the riders setting themselves up for the circuits up and around Willunga Hill.
The five or so kilometres before Willunga Hill is a long a straight, open section of road, which offers up the potential for crosswinds to effect the finale to the race, as it did in 2015.
As the riders head into Willunga for the fourth time, instead of turning right towards the coast as they have done in the stage to date, they will turn left and immediately start category one climb of Willunga Hill. The climb is covered twice, with the second time up being the finale to the race.
The climb is just over three kilometres at 7.5 percent, with sections around 10 percent. The difference between it and the Paracombe is the gradient, with the Paracombe being consistently above 10 percent, whereas Willunga is a solid 7.5, which is similar to that of most grand tour classified high mountains.
The riders complete the first time up Willunga after 129 kilometres, leaving the last 21 kilometres before the general classification will most likely be decided.
The first time up the climb, and the preceeding fast descent give the opportunists something to smile about, however, no breakaway has ever won on Willunga, and l doubt today will be the first.
The final time up the climb is all about teammates, and for BMC, having enough fire power left so that Richie Porte can launch his traditional attack at around 1.2 kilometres to go. Both Damiano Caruso and Australian individual time trial champion Rohan Dennis will be key the key to this eventuating.
Both Geriant Thomas and Sergio Henao have had good performances here in the past, and after a fairly poor week so far for both these riders, they will be wanting a good performance on the climb today. In top form, they can challenge Porte, however, they performed poorly on Wednesday on the stage to Paracombe, so don’t hold your breath.
Porte has won this stage the past three years, and will be extremely hard to bet against. Chaves will be his closest rival; however, Porte should have the form over the diminutive Colombian.
Other riders to look out for today include Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale), Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida), Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe), Tom-Jelte Slagter and Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac), Tiago Machado (Katusha-Alpecin), Rafael Valls (Lotto-Soudal), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Gorka Izaguirre (Movistar), Gianluca Brambilla and Dries Devenyns (Quick-Step Floors), Nathan Haas and Lachlan Morton (Dimension Data), Robert Gesink (Team Lotto-Jumbo), Wilco Kelderman and Simo Geschke (Team Sunweb), Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) and Louis Meintjes and Diego Ulissi (UAE Abu Dhabi).