photo credits @ TDU
For the second time in three days, Caleb Ewan has proven why he’s earned a reputation as one of the best sprinters of his generation. He is fast, well-supported, and absolutely determined to give his Lotto Soudal team the rewards it came to Australia for: stage wins. He won in Stirling on Wednesday. And he won again in Murray Bridge on Friday.
“We knew there was going to be a lot of wind once we turned into the flat part in the second half of the course,” Caleb said soon after finishing.
“My team, you probably saw on TV, was always up the front. I was never in trouble and they did such a good job today and that means I had good legs for the finish.
“It was a tight corner into the finish. But, to be honest, I like it when there’s a bit of a corner – or a bit of a technical finish. I just told my last man, Roger [Kluge], to put me on the wheel of Sam Bennett and that’s what he did.”
The 152.8km stage from the Adelaide suburb of Norwood to Murray Bridge is the longest of the 22nd Santos Tour Down Under and it was contested on the same course as what was used for the mass-participation ride, the Westpac Challenge Tour presented by The Advertiser, meaning there were thousands of cyclists clad in the same colour lycra on hand to witness an impressive contest between the two sprinters who have won stages of the TDU this year. Unlike recent years when oppressive heat impacted the number of spectators, conditions were fine, warm but not scorching. Rather, it was the threat of crosswinds on the approach to the finish that made for nervous racing and a few accidents with Australian team pursuit superstar, Kelland O’Brien, one of the riders who lost skin and required X-rays for a suspected fracture to his collarbone.
Other crash victims included Mitch Docker who took a nasty tumble along with a handful of other riders in an incident 7.5km from the line.
The GC favorites and the sprint specialists were all largely unscathed even if some of them had to take evasive action during the rapid approach to Murray Bridge where the speed was up around 60km/h.
“I was off the road a little bit actually with a kilometer to go,” confessed the stage winner, Ewan, “but luckily he was still there and he got me on the wheel and I was where I wanted to be in that last corner.”
There is another sprint expected in 100% Stage 5 when Richie Porte will become the first man in 2020 to wear the Santos Ochre Leader’s Jersey for more than a day. He lost some of his advantage over the rider ranked second on GC, Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-SCOTT) – who is now just three seconds shy of the Tasmanian from Trek-Segafredo.
Although we saw what something of a tradition is early in the stage – i.e. an attack by Astana’s Belgian Laurens De Vreese – the peloton signalled its intent: no escape would be allowed any leeway until after the Ziptrak Sprints were contested. The points may be appealing to a select few who are vying for the sprint jersey, but the real impetus to keep things together until the 40.3km mark was that time bonuses were on offer.
At the first Ziptrak Sprint, at Cudlee Creek (18.1km) it was the runner-up from Ziptrak Stage 1, Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) leading the world champion, and team-mate of the race leader Richie Porte, Mads Pedersen over the line. Then came Impey, who earned third place and wiped one second off his deficit to Porte.
Once the bonuses were absorbed, a break was allowed some freedom and again we saw Joey Rosskopf (CCC Team) on the move. He was joined by four others including two from Movistar: Jorge Arcas and Sergio Samitier, as well as James Piccoli (Israel Start-Up Nation) and… yep, you guessed it: Laurens De Vreese (Astana).
The five stage leaders worked up a lead of 2:30 together and, as expected, in the kilometre leading to the line for climbing points, Rosskopf set off with an attack to ensure he was first over Lead Prospect Hill. De Vreese, ranked fourth in the Subaru King of the Mountains classification, was second.
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