A valiant effort helped the 34-year-old Quick-Step Floors rider finish just outside the podium on the queen-stage of the race.
Dries Devenyns put in a strong ride on the 3km-long Willunga Hill, the iconic climb of the Tour Down Under, at the base of which a 38-man group arrived after heavy crosswinds split the peloton in the valley following the first ascent of the day, and concluded the stage in fourth place, a result that puts him in the top five overall ahead of the final day.
Fans came in huge numbers and created a Tour de France-like atmosphere on Willunga Hill (7.5%), which hosted a stage finish for the seventh straight year, but before the GC favourites arrived at the foot of the climb for the showdown, seven riders got in the spotlight, after snapping the elastic soon after the start and building an advantage of five minutes which allowed them to stay in the lead until the last 20 kilometers.
Before the day's second and final climb, several teams accelerated in the crosswinds and caught some riders off-guard, a move which spiced up what already was promising to be an exciting finale. Quick-Step Floors' Dries Devenyns, Enric Mas and Eros Capecchi all booked a place in the elite group, as things started to heat up and riders began jostling for position at the front.
Inside the last two kilometers, the climb came to life following several accelerations, one of which was launched by Richie Porte (BMC), who distanced his opponents and took a solo win ahead of Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott), the new ochre jersey wearer. Just a few seconds in arrears, Dries Devenyns expertly paced himself up impervious to the headwind and closed out the day just outside the podium for a matter of centimeters.
"I was very motivated for this stage, as I knew it will be the decisive day for the general classification and I was aiming for a good result. Fortunately, it wasn't as hot as in the previous days and we began riding full gas only in the last 20-30 kilometers", said Dries, fifth in the GC with one stage to go, the traditional Adelaide Criterium. "I felt really good today and when the attacks began to fly on Willunga Hill I decided to ride my own tempo, knowing that trying to respond with that strong headwind we had would have resulted in losing a large chunk of time. At the end of the day, I missed the podium, but I can't say I'm disappointed, because I gave everything."
Photo credit: © Tim De Waele/ Getty Images