Fernández nets magnificent 3rd place in Queen stage of Tour Down Under, only behind Porte (SKY) and race leader Dennis (BMC); Spaniard now 5th overall, just 4" off GC podium
Six days in Movistar Team colours have been more than enough for Rubén Fernández to gain GC leader condition into a telephone squad that had the Murcia-based rider as top performer in the Queen stage of the Tour Down Under, first event of the 2015 UCI WorldTour. The squad directed on Australian soil by José Luis Arrieta focused on taking the Spaniard calm into the foot of the second and last of the Old Willunga Hill climbs, end of the 151km stage five from McLaren Vale. Till then, the pushes by BMC, Tinkoff and even some late crosswinds by Astana forced the Blues to keep caution while protecting Fernández with the likes of Lastras, Capecchi, Herrada or a notable Gorka Izagirre.
Both Gorka and Rubén remained as head of the race until the last 1.4km, where two consecutive accelerations by Richie Porte (SKY) first strung out the group and later headed him right to a solo victory, ahead of still-race-leader Rohan Dennis (BMC) -only 2" between them after today's effort-. Rubén, who initially followed the wheel of Tom Dumoulin (TGA), stayed close to Evans's (BMC) during the first attack and eventually overtook the two to cross the line in a sensational 3rd spot, just 16" behind the Winner.
Fernández's effort puts him up into fifth place overall, 24" adrift of Dennis and just 4" off the race top-3, with Gorka also entering the first sheet of results, 9th in the day and into the overall classification. Sunday will bring the final race bonuses at stake in the 90km urban circuit race in Adelaide, a mass sprint likely to offer Juanjo Lobato one last chance. Movistar Team clearly leads the squads' competition -with Capecchi (17th) also in top-20 places- and is almost certain to be on the final podium.
Rubén Fernández: “We knew we’d be getting to Australia in good form, but there’s always some uncertitude on your mind when you’re going to take on such a strong field and even more with the first race of the season. Looking at the result I got, clearly I can’t complain!
“There was a lot of stress all day with crosswinds, and the Astana riders put on a huge pace during the first Willunga climb. We were left to 30 riders into the first group and the team reacted fantastically from there. Having such a group like this by your side, helping you out so you don’t miss anything, to stay protected against the wind… is a massive satisfaction. The adaptation to the team has been marvellous – I couldn’t be happier.
"We were keeping in mind that there wouldn’t be any attacks until the final 800m, maybe 1km, and we had to keep the pace when it came. At the end, we gave everything we had to stay as close to the front as possible and I think today’s result was good. After the Tour Down Under, I should be racing the Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice – then there’s the Giro, where I wish to take the start and I’ll fight to earn my place. For the moment, things couldn’t have got to a better start.”