Michael Storer, 22, was the unexpected beneficiary of the tactics of the big teams during the final stage of the Tour Down Under, leading the race into the final kilometre before being swamped by the inevitable Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) surge.
For a long while on the slopes of Willunga Hill, Michael Storer’s name was on the lips of tens of thousands as the West Australian broke away from the remnants of the breakaway and was forging his way upwards to the finish line.
“It was unreal,” said Storer. “For a moment there I thought I could win it. I was really excited to be able to go for it.
“It wasn’t in the plan for the today, but at the start I saw 26 guys jump and it doesn’t matter what the plan is, you have to go if there’s a group that big. I was just trying to conserve and see what happens behind. Only Richie caught us when we were really close to making it.”
Storer was a bike-riding talent identified from an early age, scooped up as a first year Under 23 to ride in the now-defunct Australian WorldTour Academy, before progressing to the elite ranks with Team Sunweb aged just 20. Repeating the results taken in his Under-23 career against WorldTour competition has proven tough going to date, but he got his opportunity with nothing but air between him and the finish line on Stage 6.
“I knew with my style of riding that it’s better to back myself to be able to climb well today,” said Storer. “It was a matter of riding smart and picking my moment.”
“I wasn’t listening to the legs, I was riding purely on emotion in that last kilometre. I haven’t gone that hard in two or three years.”
The sound of the crowd is quite a sight to behold on the hill, with the crowd responding to Richie Porte’s every move and each new development in the final stages of the race.
“It’s really amazing, it’s like being at the Tour de France,” said Storer, “you can’t even hear yourself think at times.”
The future for the Storer is far from set, both for the 2020 season and where his career trajectory will go from here. What is clear is that Storer will be a team player for Team Sunweb, with whom he is contracted until 2021.
“I’ll just see where the team thinks is best that I should race,” said Storer, “and wherever it is I’ll give my best shot.”
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Written by Jamie Finch-Penninger