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Oscar Onley was full of racing on the final passage of Willunga Hill and used his resources to perfection to claim a classy win

Oscar Onley (Team dsm-firmenich PostNL), the 21-year-old British up and comer, has taken a brilliant stage victory on Willunga Hill at the Tour Down Under overnight.

He led in compatriot, Stephen Williams (Israel Premier Tech), who has now taken over the race lead with just one stage remaining of this first World Tour race of the new season.

Ireland’s Archie Ryan was delivered to the base of the final climb very solidly by his EF Education-EasyPost team. However, when the road kicked up properly, and the big guns came out to play, Ryan’s legs let him down a little and he slipped back through the group.

The finale proper began about two thirds up Willunga, on the second passage of the climb, in what proved to be a cagey and close-run stage end.

With 2.2km to go to the finish, it was Chris Harper who shot off the front, splitting the remains of the peloton, with Ireland’s Ryan one of those towards the back of the group, still about 40-strong.

As Harper went forward, his Jayco AlUla team mate, Simon Yates, let the wheel go. In a sign of things to come, it was eventual stage winner Onley who easily accelerated across the gap and closed up to Harper’s back wheel.

There was then a slight regrouping at the front, but the Harper acceleration had done a lot of damage. Only eight men ever saw the front again inside the final 2km, including race leader Isaac del Toro (UAE Team Emirates).

Deep inside the final kilometre it was Yates who hit the front, accelerating hard with Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers) in his wheel. However, Yates couldn’t keep it going and it was then the turn of Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal QuickStep) to surge forward, though his effort was very fleeting.

Once the French rider was done, and with the line in sight, Onley opened up his sprint for the chequered flag. He was matched for most of the way by Williams, but Onley got the better of the Israel Premier Tech rider to claim the victory, with Narváez 3rd on the same time.

Then came a gap of three seconds back to Alaphilippe in 4th, with Bart Lemmen (Visma-Lease a Bike) and Yates 5th and 6th on the same time.

Valentin Paret-Peintre (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) and Del Toro were then 7th and 8th, at six seconds, completing the eight-rider group that had pulled clear in the final 2km.

The result meant del Toro slipped from the race lead, which has been assumed by Williams, who now leads overall from Onley, though both are equal on time.

Ireland’s Ryan simply did not have the legs on the final climb so early in the season and finished in 39th at 1:28. He will be disappointed with that, but even a rider of his talents will need a little time to adjust to the big leagues.

With the general classification so tight at the top, a really exciting final stage is in store tomorrow on Mount Lofty, where Ryan will also get to test himself against the best once more.

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