Porte ascends to the top of Tour Down Under

Australian Richie Porte, seen in this 2017 TDU file photo, conquered a brutal uphill finish Thursday to claim the third stage and the race leader's jersey in the Tour Down Under.

ADELAIDE, Australia — Australian Richie Porte conquered a brutal uphill finish Thursday to claim the third stage and the race leader's jersey in the Tour Down Under.

Porte, the 2017 TDU winner, made the decisive move for his Trek-Segafredo team in the season's opening UCI tour, to power up the torturous hill climb to the Paracombe finish in the fire-ravaged Adelaide Hills and win the stage by a commanding five seconds.

Australia's Rob Powers (Team Sunweb) just held out Britain's Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) for second, with Australia's Rohan Dennis (Team Ineos) fourth.

South Africa's Daryl Impey, chasing a third straight TDU title for Mitchelton-Scott, finished sixth to lie six seconds behind Porte in the general classification with three stages left to Sunday's finish.

"Hats off to the boys," Porte said. "They did a really good job in controlling it.

"I felt good at the bottom of the climb and got a bit of a gap there. It was just a shame there was such a headwind in the final bit, because we could have really done some damage."

It was a lung-busting surge by Porte up the 1.7-kilometer final ascent, leaving his rivals trailing in his wake.

Impey will need to win time bonuses in the remaining stages for a third straight title.

"It was always going to be a challenge getting close to the guys up here, but to finish in that group at the end, I was pretty chuffed," Impey said.

"I think we're in a great situation. Obviously we'd like to be in the (leader's) jersey, but there's still lots of bonuses to come and lots of opportunities in the race."

It was a courageous effort by Yates to get on to the stage podium after crashing heavily and injuring his left knee in Wednesday's second stage and he occupies fourth spot overall, 11 seconds behind Porte.

"It was alright," Yates said. "It was a little bit stiff in the morning but once we got into it, it started getting better and better."

Dennis, the individual world time trial champion, said his fourth placing was encouraging for the remainder of the race.

"It was a confidence boost ahead of Willunga (final hill stage). I really had to play mind games with myself and I really had to look after myself before that final climb," Dennis said.

"I had (teammate) Dylan van Baarle in front, protecting me, but Richie kicked on the climb and he was just too good."

The stage went through the charred Adelaide Hills district where hundreds of properties were destroyed by raging bushfires last month. — AFP