Richie Porte wasted little time thanking his Tasmanian training partners after his traditional season-opening victory up South Australia's Willunga Hill.
The 35-year-old has won seven of the last eight stages up the climb near Adelaide - only missing out last year when his second place secured his second Tour Down Under title.
Although the race has been downgraded from the WorldTour to National Road Series level due to COVID, it was still a world-class field that the reigning champion destroyed as he led his teammate Luke Plapp over the line.
"I don't have the form I normally would but it's just great to be back racing," Porte said.
"One month ago I came out of quarantine a little bit rotund but I worked hard with some really good training mates back in Tassie and they really kicked me back into gear.
"It's not WorldTour, but it's still a hard, hard race. I'm almost 36 so it's nice to be up there still.
"But the rider of the day was Plappy. He could easily have come around me."
Having faced a logistical nightmare securing a passport for his new-born daughter, the Monaco-based father-of-two eventually brought his family back to Launceston in time for Christmas.
He has since been clocking up daily Scottsdale circuits, tackling the Sideling with a who's who of Tasmanian cycling.
In his first competitive run since rejoining INEOS Grenadiers from Trek-Segafredo, Porte is leading a gun Garmin Australia outfit including Plapp, Jimmy Whelan, Kelland O'Brien, Leigh Howard, Alex Porter and Sam Welsford.
Less than a month after edging out home-town favourite Josh Duffy to claim the blue riband A-grade scratch race at the Silverdome, Plapp was happy to reverse roles for another Launcestonian.
"I got to follow Richie the whole way," beamed the Victorian having sat back to applaud as Porte claimed the win in 35-degree heat.
"I sat on the king and watched him do his work, that was an absolute privilege. When you follow Richie's wheel, you sit on it and hold on for dear life."
Even West Australian Luke Durbridge, who finished third, eight seconds behind, to cement his overall leadership and almost-certain victory, was in awe of Porte's consistency on the climb.
"Richie's obviously the best up there and I was not too far off so I'm happy with that."
Plapp sits second overall, two minutes down, and leads the young rider classification and the king of the mountains in which Porte is second and Legana's Josh Wilson eighth.
South Australian Chris Harper (who also rides WorldTour with Jumbo-Visma) attacked at the base of Willunga Hill but a patient Porte used his experience to power past him.
One of only two Australians to finish on a Tour de France podium, Porte could only be matched by Plapp who graciously sat back to allow his teammate to claim his obligatory season-opening victory after 1:57:07 in the saddle.
There's still plenty of copies of https://t.co/8AKGz5AuXa available ($29.95) and just look how happy it made Hadspen sporting legends @Corey_Martin91 and @richie_porte.— Rob Shaw (@TheShawThing) September 8, 2020
You too could be that happy. Order at email@example.com or Facebook.
Happy to post ($42.20) or deliver. pic.twitter.com/ay6YrZpkPQ
Another Victorian, Sarah Gigante won the women's stage to extend her overall lead but a second podium finish for Nicole Frain keeps the Launceston rider in fourth with a day remaining.
Frain finished 1:36 behind Gigante to claim five valuable bonus points and sit 3:44 down overall, just two seconds behind her former TIS Racing teammate Ruby Roseman-Gannon.
Devonport's Anya Louw is the next best Tasmanian in 13th (+5:12) with Perth's Georgia Baker 24th (+7:43), Exeter's Catelyn Turner 41st (+18:06), Launceston's Izzy Flint 59th (+32:20), Burnie's Amalia Langham 60th (+34:58) and Launceston's Lauren Perry 63rd (+47:54).
Frain also sits third in the queen of the mountains and seventh in the sprint classification.