Richie Porte won the Tour Down Under on Sunday afternoon. Because of course he did.
The 31-year-old Tasmanian dominated the race from day two, when he outrode the field on the final climb in Paracombe, through day four and the Willunga Hill climb (where he's now unbeaten in four years) and onto the finish.
Porte had finished runner-up three times previously in Australia's greatest road race. It was a bit strange that a man of his class had never won. But after a horror 2017 (which you can read about below in the chat we had with Richie just before this year's TDU), this always looked like his year. And was.
Porte's final margin of 48 seconds over Colombian Esteban Chaves doesn't sound like much. But when you consider that most Tour de Frances are only won by a few minutes -- and this race is many time shorter in terms of both time and distance -- it was an ample margin. Indeed it was the second largest in the race's 19 year history.
''The Tour Down Under was good for me this year with two hilltop finishes,'' Porte said. "It was good for me to come back this year and win after being so close the last two years.''
'I had a good break at the end of last season, and I've come back refreshed physically and mentally. 'To win this race means a hell of a lot.''
Australian sprint specialist Caleb Ewan won the final stage, a 90km race through Adelaide's streets .
SUNDAY MORNING'S STORY...
For months, cycling people have been saying that 2017 would be Richie Porte's year. If not now, then when?
If you don't have a cupboard full of lycra, and if you think a "domestique" is some sort of hired help for posh Parisians rather than a member of a cycling team who does all the grunt work, we'll excuse you for not knowing the name Richie Porte.
But you need to get to know the name, because Richie Porte will soon be on every Australian's lips. It'll start this Sunday, with Porte appearing certain to wrap up our most prestigious annual road cycling race, the Tour Down Under.
And then? The Tour de France. That's right, this 31-year-old Tasmanian could this year become just the second Australian (after Cadel Evans in 2011) to complete a lap of France wearing yellow.
For several years, Porte rode as a domestique (support rider) for Team Sky in Le Tour. He helped his good mate Chris Froome win two Tours. Then last year, Porte became the main man. Like Cadel Evans before him, he assumed the role of leader for BMC in the familiar red-and-black.
"I left Team Sky in 2015 to have my own opportunity," Porte told The Huffington Post Australia when we chatted just before the Tour down Under. "It's nice that the team has enough solid belief in me to lead the team."
Porte immediately justified BMC's faith in him, finishing a super impressive fifth in Le Tour in 2016, despite a a stack of bad luck (crashes, flat tyres etc) that cost him loads of time.
He also had some awful luck in the road race at the Rio Olympics in August, when he nearly went over the side of a mountain. Ouch.
"I basically went fast down the descent and came round the corner and saw the Russian rider on the floor and didn't really have anywhere to go but the gutter.
"I saw the video footage of it just the other day. That was just the story of my year. It summed up the whole season. We're hoping this season kicks off on a better note in Adelaide where the fans are brilliant and the atmosphere is awesome."
As we all know, this season has indeed kicked off on a better note. Porte has looked close to untouchable in the Tour Down Under. If his luck holds, that might just be the case in the Tour de France in July as well.
"I could have done with more hilltop finishes," he said of this year's Le Tour route (we love how he calls the Alps 'hills'). But you get the sense Porte still fancies his chances.
First things first: ochre. That's the colour of the jersey worn by the leader of the Tour Down Under. Porte earned the jersey on just the second day of the race (on Wednesday, full highlights here) after a breakaway on the final climb into the town of Paracombe.
This is the moment he made his move.
These were only Australian hills. They were not the Alps or Pyrenees. But this was still a steep incline after 147km of racing, and Porte blew away a couple of world class riders. This guy is the real deal.
So what's the secret to Porte's success? We know he spent part of summer training on tough Tasmanian hill climbs, but we're guessing there's more to it than that. Is it coffee? All cyclists love coffee.
"Yeah I'm into coffee but nothing ridiculous. Probably just four or five espressos a day".
Yup, nothing ridiculous. Just FIVE COFFEES! Porte also told us he eats a lot of local Tassie brand Huon salmon for the protein and Omega-3. Yum.
The thing that really strikes you about Porte is that he's always smiling. He's a good conversationalist, too, and a good listener. And despite being confident, he's not full of himself. That's a subtle but very important difference.
"At the end of day it's your job," he said of his time riding as a domestique for Team Sky. "You get paid well to go there and sacrifice [your own chances] for those guys."
But Porte has served his time. There are now other riders burning their legs to keep his leg fresh. Porte is determined to make the most of his new role come Tour de France time.
"With the BMC team backing, this has to be my year."Suggest a correction