First introduced in 2012, the Willunga Hill climb has been an integral part of the men’s Tour Down Under in the decade since.
The famous hill has only once been missed from the season-opening race – in 2023 when new race director Stuart O’Grady took over from Mike Turtur and made his own mark on the Australian WorldTour race by including a Mount Lofty summit finish instead.
Mount Lofty might still remain as the stage that will crown the overall winner, the popular first-category climb up Willunga makes its return. Saturday’s stage 5 will see the peloton once again tackle the 3.72km ascent with an average gradient of 6.99%, this time on two occasions.
The second time up, at the end of the 129.3km stage, the riders will finish at the hill’s summit, a place where the battle for GC will start to unfold after four flatter stages, where chances to stretch out time gaps have been slim.
Heading into the stage, 20-year-old Isaac Del Toro, a neo-pro with UAE Team Emirates, is at the top of the GC ranking after winning stage 2 with a late attack.
Classics star Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) lies in second at one second back while Corbin Strong (Israel-Premier Tech) is third a further second back. Behind the leading trio, 66 more men lie close back, between 5-11 seconds down. The overall battle is wide open as the race heads into the final weekend.
The famous climb has been a staple of the race since its introduction at the 2003 edition, where it featured before the finish as Giampaolo Caruso beat Steffen Weseman to the line before later being stripped of the win after testing positive for Nandrolone.
However, it’s only since 2012 that the climb has featured as the stage finish, with intervening years bringing winners as varied as Alberto Contador, André Greipel, Luis León Sánchez, and Allan Davis.
This year, the climb is back for the first time since 2020, thanks to COVID-19 cancellations in 2021 and 2022 and O’Grady’s route last January.
As the six-stage WorldTour race in South Australia, which started the WorldTour racing for the season on Tuesday, heads towards the top of Willunga Hill once again on stage 5 we take a look at the stage winners there since 2012.
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