André Greipel won stage four of the 2014 Tour Down Under in Bupa today – while Cadel Evans managed to retain his overall lead.
Evans went into the stage with a 12 second lead over fellow countryman and rival Simon Gerrans, but at the end of the day that margin had dwindled down to seven seconds due to a concerted assault by the Orica-GreenEDGE team.
Precious seconds were on offer early in today’s stage that departed from the Adelaide suburb of Unley and headed out through the Adelaide Hills to the Fleurieu Peninsula for a 149 kilometer stage with 115,000 fans flocking to see the race.
The first intemediate sprint was contested at Echunga – 25km into the stage which meant the pace was on from the start – with the contenders anxious to claw back time on Evans.
Gerrans was set up perfectly by his teammates and claimed the maximum three seconds to close his deficit on Evans to nine seconds. His Orica-GreenEDGE team mate, Matt Goss, was second ahead of Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) who claimed a one second bonus.
"Today it went pretty well with the time bonus I was after," said Gerrans. "Our plan was to chase the first breakaway if it was within reach before the first intermediate sprint, and if not, we’d target the second.
"We eventually managed to do both," said Gerrans. I’m pretty happy with that."
Today’s stage saw a fierce pace – initially set by Axel Domant (AG2R – La Mondiale) and Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) – that allowed them to ride clear of the peloton – subsequently building up a lead of more than four minutes.
The only climb of the day was the Skoda King of the Mountain, which was located at the 96 kilometer mark in Myponga. There, Domant took ten points ahead of Wurf. Not long after Australian Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) led the chasing group across to add four points to his tally and hold onto the green polka-dot jersey for another day.
Strong crosswinds later split the peloton, with about 40 riders, including the main overall contenders, riding into the front group. With the second intermediate sprint located at the 30 kilometer mark, the pace was intensified greatly with teams such as Orica-GreenEDGE hoping to set-up their rider – Gerrans.
However, it was Garmin-Sharp team that succeeded in getting their rider Nathan Hass over the line first – picking up a three second bonus. Gerrans had to settle for second place and two second bonus, while Diego Ulissi a one second bonus for third.
Unfortunately for Evans, mechanical trouble with this bike cost him the chance of winning the sprint. But, a quick bike change got him back onboard with the leaders.
"It’s been a nervous day with the wind and Orica really took control of the race putting the whole team (on the front) for the intermediate sprints," said Evans. "The first one didn’t go favourably for me and the second one was even worse.
"Looking at the numbers, we have four stages favourable to Orica and two for me, so numbers-wise it’s not in my advantage but of course Willunga will be important," said Evans of tomorrow’s Queen stage that ends atop Old Willunga Hill. "Certainly if Orica keep going for the intermediate sprints they can eat away at seven seconds pretty quickly.
"It’s certainly not my area of expertise and Simon is good in the sprints and has a very, very good team for that…. but we’ll see what happens on the way to Willunga. With the finish line at the top I think everyone is going to be looking at Willunga of course, and it goes back into my area of racing and experience.
"Of course to win the race I’m going to have to do something pretty special there."
Meanwhile, Gerrans tried to seize the opportunity and gain more seconds on Evans at the finish – to no avail.
"It would have been great to finish one place higher and get more time bonus but a flat bunch sprint finish isn’t my speciality," said Gerrans. "With two stages to go, the race for the overall win remains wide open. The race is far from won."
All along, Greipel had been perfectly set-up for the sprint finish by his Lotto-Belisol team, along with his teammate Jurgen Roelandts who finished in second – followed by Elia Viviani (Cannondale) in third.
"I was always confident that I’d win something here. In the inaugural criterium in Adelaide and in stage 1, I just made mistakes but that can happen in sprinting," said Greipel.
"Before today’s stage, I thought this would be the first day for a sprint," said the German champion who in 2012 also won the stage into Victor Harbor and holds the event record for the most stage wins. "Coming first and second says enough of the great work our team Lotto-Belisol has done today.
"It was nervous all along, Orica-GreeenEDGE had six guys at the front of the bunch but we put pressure on them after the intermediate sprint," Greipel explained.
"I know the area of Victor Harbor pretty well. I know the last climb too. It’s quite open to the wind. The way we rode as a team makes it a well deserved win," he said.
It was a bonus that Roelandts held on for second place.
"I was a bit nervous with 8km to go because we had all the pressure to win," said Roelandts. "We hit that last chicane with André in perfect position and after leading him out, I sat up a bit, but when I saw no one coming around me, I restarted my sprint to finish second.
"That’s always nice for the points and the confidence, knowing the work over the winter has paid off."
Lotto-Belisol had more reason to celebrate with Adam Hansen holding onto the Skoda King of the Mountain category. But, he admits his aim now is a high overall place (he is currently sitting in 12th place).
"To win with André is why we’re here and today was our big goal with him," said Hansen. "I just stayed near him as much as possible during the stage and did my job when attacks went in the final hill. I closed the gap to the attackers and made sure I had my guys in a good position to lead André out.
"He’s one of the best sprinters in the world so we always believe in him to be able to win," said Hansen. 20 year old UniSA-Australia rider, Jack Haig, had a fabulous day in the saddle finishing with the lead group to grab the Cycle Instead Young Rider jersey.
"With all the crosswinds, it was a question of staying out of the gutter. The bunch split and I was the only young rider up there I think. Anyway the kid from FDJ wasn’t so I take the jersey over from him," explained Haig. "I have a really good chance to win this jersey tomorrow because I’m a good climber.
"This is my first Santos Tour Down Under, it’s amazing!"
The Europcar Most Competitive Rider for the stage was awarded to Wurf who said his ride was motivated by past events.
"What happened in the Giro (Tour of Italy) last year (was) every time I went into a breakaway, Elia Viviani got a good result, so he did today too." said the former rowing champion.
"I attacked again in the final climb to get the sprint trains disorganised. I was hungry today because I was very disappointed yesterday to not get the position I wanted up to Corkscrew climb."
"With Jens Voigt, we also have a bit of a competition running for being the rider who attacks the most," said Wurf of the Trek Factory Racing team rider who scored yesterday’s Europcar Most Competitive Rider award.
In addition to today’s race, early this morning, more than six thousand participants rode out from Unley for the Bupa Challenge Tour, a recreational ride for enthusiasts from Australia and other parts of the world. They rode over three varying distances to the finish under the official Bupa Stage 4 finish arch in Victor Harbor.
Top 25 Finishers
1 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol 3:33:07 2 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Belisol 3 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale 4 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica Greenedge 5 Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp 6 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica Greenedge 7 Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 8 Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo 9 Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ.fr 10 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team 11 Steele Von Hoff (Aus) Garmin Sharp 12 Jonathan Cantwell (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 13 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 14 Jan Bakelants (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team 15 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team 16 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 17 Stef Clement (Ned) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team 18 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team 19 Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 20 Rory Sutherland (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo 21 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team 22 Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team 23 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 24 Perrig Quemeneur (Fra) Team Europcar 25 Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team Katusha
General classification after Stage 4
1 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 14:19:46 2 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica Greenedge 0:00:07 3 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:00:14 4 Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp 0:00:23 5 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team 0:00:29 6 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 7 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica Greenedge 0:00:33 8 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team 9 Rory Sutherland (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo 10 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 11 Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team 12 Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol 15 Jan Bakelants (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team 20 Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing 21 Caleb Fairly (USA) Garmin Sharp 22 Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team Katusha 23 Jack Haig (Aus) Uni-SA Australia 24 Robbie Hucker (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 27 Bernard Sulzberger (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 28 Darren Lapthorne (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 29 Cameron Wurf (Aus) Cannondale 30 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:02:33
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