JOHANNESBURG – Daryl Impey etched his name into the history books becoming the first man to win the Tour Down Under in consecutive years yesterday.
When the South African cycling ace won the race in 2018, it was his maiden World Tour title general classification victory.
Impey, the first South African to wear the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, finished the final stage behind Richie Porte and Wout Poels to claim a 13-second victory.
“That’s special to go back-to-back. I never dreamed to come here and win twice in a row,” said Impey. “Every year we come here with strong ambitions. I knew the competition is always tough. I just believed in myself, and it was just fantastic to pull it off.”
Impey gave his chances of winning back-to-back titles a shot in the arm when he won the fourth stage on Friday - the first time he had won a stage in the race.
“The stage win gave us a lot of momentum, and we started to believe we had a chance to win the race,” Impey said. “The whole team rode great. The guys picked me up during the week.”
The 34-year-old came into the final stage trailing race leader New Zealand’s Patrick Bevin by seven seconds after a tumultuous penultimate day of the race.
Bevin crashed in the fifth leg of the race but manage to get back on the bike to re-join the peloton to consolidate his lead in the race.
He was hospitalised following the day’s racing and was given the all clear to line up for the final stage and a chance to defend his lead.
A patched up Bevin turned in a brave fight but the injuries had taken their toll and he dropped back with 25km to go.
Such a special memory made yesterday. Winning Tour down Under for a 2nd time was made easier with such a great team. Thank you @MitcheltonSCOTT for backing me and supporting me and thank you to all the fans who cheer us on , you are all part of this victory. @GettyImages pic.twitter.com/AnVGo7JANL— Daryl Impey (@darylimpey) January 20, 2019
“Yesterday we really dug deep, and we took some valuable seconds,” Impey said. “Last year I was a lot more ecstatic because I felt like I made a big step. I feel like I am maturing more as a rider, and that’s so exciting.”
Team Dimension Data’s Ryan Gibbons finished in a creditable 11th place in the general classification narrowly missing out on a top-10 spot after finishing 12th in the final stage.
Gibbons came into the final stage wearing the Young Rider’s jersey after finishing in eighth place.
“I gave it my all today and had nothing left in the end so it’s a real pity to miss out on a top-10 result by just three seconds,” Gibbons said. “With a bit more experience I am sure I could’ve saved those three seconds somewhere out on the road but the key is to learn from this and take the positives with me, of which there are many.
“After not expecting to be anywhere near GC contention before the race started, I am relatively pleased with where I am at.”
Fellow Team Dimension Data rider Nicholas Dlamini, who was crowned King of the Mountains in 2018, had to be content with a 100th place overall.