MURRAY BRIDGE, Australia (CT) – Caleb Ewan has proven to be the fast man to beat, making the most of a technical finish and timing his sprint to perfection to take out the fourth stage of the 2020 Tour Down Under.
Crosswinds caused havoc in on the final, relatively straight final 10km to the line as the peloton ramped up the speed attempting to get through to the technical final 300m in a safe position. Deceuninck-Quickstep set a scintillating pace as the bunch entered the finishing town of Murray Bridge, bringing with them, marquee sprinter, Sam Bennett. A bottleneck with 1.5km to go stretched out the peloton, as the peloton jostled for the front of the bunch before the final hairpin of the stage at just 300m to go. Ewan surfed the wheel of Bennett, waiting until the perfect moment to launch into his final sprint, riding around the Irishman to win the stage by two lengths.
How it Unfolded
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.
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.
The break was then reeled in by the peloton, with the race coming altogether by the 29km to go mark.
Rather than the oppresive heat from previous years, 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 (UniSA- Australia), 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 favourites 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 kilometre 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.”
Porte maintains his lead in the GC standing for the Ochre jersey, however the gap back to Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) has dwindled down to just three seconds, while Young Australian Rob Power (Team Sunweb) is a further 5 seconds back at 8".
Stage five see's the peloton take on yet another point-to-point stage, taking in 149.1km from the coastal suburb of Glenelg, down to Victor Harbour. The stage is relatively flat compared to the previous days' stages and should be the last chance for the fast men of the peloton to take line honours.
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