Welshman Williams wins Australia's Tour Down Under

cycling21 January 2024 05:24| © AFP
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Stephen Williams © Getty Images

Welshman Stephen Williams surged away from his rivals to win the sixth stage up Mount Lofty and claim Australia's Tour Down Under crown in the WorldTour season opener in Adelaide on Sunday.

Three riders were in the final general classification mix in the summit finish but Williams (Israel-Premier Tech) dashed clear in the final 250 metres to beat home Ecuador's Jhonatan Narvaez (Ineos Grenadiers) and Mexican Isaac del Toro Romero (UAE Team Emirates).

Williams, who was tied with Scotland's Oscar Onley on time but led the race on countback after the penultimate stage, made certain of his overall victory with his determined finish to the 128-kilometre final stage and the day's third climb up the 710-metre (2,330ft) Mount Lofty.

The composed Welshman completed the race in a time of 19 hours 13 minutes 34 seconds over the six stages totalling 824.6 km, and had nine seconds to spare over Narvaez, with earlier ochre jersey leader Del Toro Romero third 11 seconds behind the lead.

Williams became the first British winner in the 24th staging of the Tour Down Under.

"Everything goes through your mind when you cross the line. Just how hard this sport is and to win races, they don't come around very often," Williams said.

"To do it here in Australia, the first world tour race of the season, is fantastic.”

Williams stayed on the wheels of his rivals until he pounced and neither Narvaez nor Del Toro Romero could match his finishing pace.

"That finish is perfect for me. It's so punchy," he said. "I've got a knack of being able to hold and hold and luckily I was able to get back on the wheel, read the situation and capitalise, opened up with 250 to go.

"Everyone's legs were dead by then, so I thought if I got the jump, then I'd be in with a good chance.

"What a stage, so over the moon. Just really proud to come down here to start the season like this on the front foot and head back to Europe and continue on."

Onley, who won Saturday's fifth stage up the famed Willunga Hill narrowly from Williams, finished 21st in Sunday's stage to be fourth overall for his dsm-firmenich PostNL team -- 20 seconds behind Williams with Dutchman Bart Lemmen (Team Visma) fifth.

France's double world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quick Step) finished sixth overall just ahead of Britain's Simon Yates (Team Jayco-AlUla), both 33 seconds behind.

The points classification was won by Australia's triple-stage winner Sam Welsford (Bora-hansgrohe) with the mountain classification going to Luke Burns (Australian National Team).