Stephen Williams clinches thrilling last stage victory and claims his first Tour Down Under championship.
Stephen Williams, a man from Wales, has emerged as the winner of the last stage of the Tour Down Under, solidifying his overall triumph.
On Sunday in the Adelaide Hills, Williams was part of a leading group of five riders who competed for the top spot on the hilltop finish at Mt Lofty. Despite several attempts to break away during the 3km climb, Williams expertly timed his final push to cross the finish line first.
“Excellent performance on this stage. I am extremely proud to have started the season with such a strong finish and am now looking forward to returning to Europe and continuing on,” Williams stated following the conclusion of the race.
“The Mt Lofty finish is ideal for me as it is short and intense. I assessed the situation and made my move with 250m left, catching my competitors off guard as their legs were exhausted. I knew that if I could get ahead, I had a strong chance of winning.”
When asked about his thoughts after finishing the race, Williams expressed that “a lot goes through your mind.” He also acknowledged the difficulty of the sport and the rarity of winning races. He was especially proud to have achieved victory in Australia, the first WorldTour race of the season.
This marks Williams’ first appearance at the Santos Tour, and he is the first European to win the race since 2013. This is a major achievement for the team, especially considering their demotion from the WorldTour in 2022.
Williams has faced challenges in maintaining a steady performance throughout his career. This is the inaugural time the expert climber has emerged victorious in a WorldTour stage race. Daryl Impey, the team leader for Israel-Premier Tech and hailing from South Africa, achieved victory in the Tour in both 2018 and 2019.
There is a strong Australian connection with Williams’ win – his team captain for this event has been Simon Clarke, and Nick Schultz also made his Tour debut. The Israel-Premier Tech rider took the overall lead on Saturday, when he finished second, immediately behind young Scot Oscar Onley, on the hilltop finish at Willunga.
Jhonatan Narvaez of Ecuador placed second in the stage and maintained his second place position in the overall standings, trailing nine seconds behind Williams. Onley, who was previously tied with Williams for the overall lead, fell to fourth place overall.
Isaac del Toro, a young talent from Mexico, was in the lead of the Tour earlier in the week. He made a move right before Williams’ final push and ultimately placed third in the stage. Overall, he was third in the standings, trailing by 11 seconds.
Damien Howson, a member of the national team, placed ninth overall and was the sole Australian in the top 10. The top Australian team, Jayco AlUla, had a disappointing home tour with no stage wins and their main contender for the overall title, Simon Yates, finishing sixth.
Sarah Gigante, a rising star from Australia, claimed victory in the women’s Tour Down Under last week by launching a powerful attack on the famous Willunga Hill climb.