Tour Down Under Stage 2: Isaac del Toro stuns the sprinters with a last-minute solo victory

Corbin Strong and Stephen Williams round out the podium in Lobethal

Clock05:02, Wednesday 17th January 2024
Isaac del Toro wins stage 2 of the Santos Tour Down Under

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Isaac del Toro wins stage 2 of the Santos Tour Down Under

Isaac del Toro (UAE Team Emirates) won stage 2 of the Tour Down Under with a perfectly timed last-minute attack, finishing solo just ahead of Corbin Strong (Israel-Premier Tech) and Stephen Williams (Israel-Premier Tech).

On the hilliest day of the Tour Down Under so far, the expected fireworks never fully materialised as a two-man breakaway went from the gun and calmed the action until the final time of asking up the short and sharp Fox Creek Climb, which came with only 8km left to race after the top.

On the climb, it was Luke Plapp (Jayco-AlUla) who attacked first and held his effort to the top, dropping the full peloton except for Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers), who proved to be a thorn in the Australian champion's side, allowing the race to come back together.

The counter-attack came from Quinn Simmons (Lidl-Trek) and Bastien Tronchon (Decathlon-AG2R) with around 4km to go and it looked promising. However, with the peloton closing in on the attackers, and the finish line only a kilometre away, Isaac del Toro exploded from the peloton and stole a march on everyone, taking an extraordinary win in his first WorldTour race.

"This is crazy. It’s so emotional," Del Toro said right after the finish. "Last year was crazy, but this one… I don’t know what to say. It’s so much."

Read more: Isaac del Toro: Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana inspired me to follow my dream

A young star emerges from the fray in Lobethal

Stage 2 of the Santos Tour Down Under, by the numbers, was the hilliest of the week with just under 3,000 metres of climbing throughout the 141km profile.

With the amount of climbing on the stage, and with a 10km climb out of the gate up Norton Summit, a fight for the breakaway seemed likely. However, once the flag dropped after the 5km neutral start, the fight never materialised as Luke Burns (Australia) and Jardi Christiaan van der Lee (EF Education-EasyPost) quickly attacked, got a gap and began to forge a lead big enough to put the pair ahead of the race for the majority of the day.

On the top of Norton Summit there was a skirmish between the two escapees for the KoM points with Van der Lee snagging the maximum total ahead of Burns. Over the top of the climb, the gap kept ballooning. At its largest, it hit 6:40 with 125km remaining, before Jayco-AlUla eventually came to the front to stop it from expanding any further.

With the race rhythm set, the next intrigue came at the intermediate sprint. Up front, the two riders rolled across the line with Van der Lee taking the full points and seconds ahead of Burns. Behind in the peloton, however, it was Del Toro who managed to come out on top of the scrap for the last remaining bonus second.

By the time the leaders got to the next point of note on the course, the first time up the Fox Creek climb (1.6km, 8.8%) at 79km to go, the gap had been whittled down further to 3:21, led by Michael Hepburn (Jayco-AlUla). At the top of the climb, it was Burns who got the better of Van Der Lee.

With the finish coming after three circuits around the Lobethal area, it was a repeat of both the sprint point and the climb over the next 35km before the final would begin in earnest. On the second time of asking at the sprint, it was again Van der Lee ahead of Burns, but back in the peloton, it was Caleb Ewan (Jayco-AlUla) who pipped Del Toro at the line. At the top of the Fox Creek Climb for the second time, it was Burns again who took the full KoM points, locking up the jersey for tomorrow’s stage ahead of Van der Lee.

Through the bell, the gap was down under two minutes as a couple of sets of fresh legs made their way to the front. With 28km to go, the gap began to close in earnest as Leo Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) came to the front and cut the gap down to just a handful of seconds before the breakaway was brought back into the fold with 20km left to ride.

It was over to the GC teams at that point as the race got set for the final climb of the day on the Fox Creek Climb, with Soudal Quick-Step, Visma-Lease a Bike and Ineos Grenadiers joining the omnipresent Jayco-AlUla jerseys at the front.

On the climb the final time it was Luke Plapp (Jayco-AlUla) who was the first rider to launch an attack as Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step) was quick to match the Australian champ at first before he swung off. Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers), in the end, was the only rider who could stay with Plapp over the top, perhaps hinting at the battles to come on the weekend when the climbs of Willunga Hill and Mount Lofty will decide the overall.

The collaboration at the front of the race proved to be short-lived, however, with the attacking duo brought to heel shortly after the summit when Plapp refused to work with the fast-finishing Narváez.

The next move to go came from Quinn Simmons (Lidl-Trek) and Bastien Tronchon (Decathlon-AG2R) and the pair were able to quickly build a short gap with only 4km left to race. While the gap looked promising, the peloton was close enough to close in by the finish, with a sprint looking imminent.

Nevertheless, into the final kilometre, Del Toro came flying by the leading duo and powered away from everyone to take the stage win and the race lead in only his second day of WorldTour racing.

Race Results

1

mx flag

DEL TORO Isaac

UAE Team Emirates

3H 29' 37"

2

nz flag

STRONG Corbin

Israel-Premier Tech

"

3

gb flag

WILLIAMS Stephen

Israel-Premier Tech

"

4

er flag

GIRMAY Biniam

Intermarché-Wanty

"

5

au flag

EWAN Caleb

Team Jayco-AlUla

"

6

nl flag

BOVEN Lars

Alpecin-Deceuninck

"

7

pt flag

GUERREIRO Ruben

Movistar Team

"

8

nl flag

VAN POPPEL Danny

BORA-hansgrohe

"

9

de flag

KANTER Max

Astana Qazaqstan Team

"

10

nz flag

PITHIE Laurence

Groupama-FDJ

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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