January 27, 2010
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Germany's Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia) has scored stage win number three in the 2010 Santos Tour Down Under galloping into a gusting head wind in Goolwa to further increase his overall lead in the Tour.
Greipel crossed in a time of 3hr30min29sec edging out Australians Robbie McEwen (Katusha) who was second and Graeme Brown (Rabobank) third in a wild and windy bunch sprint for the line at the end of the 149 kilometre stage four which started in the eastern Adelaide suburb of Norwood and down the Fleurieu Peninsula.
"It was a very special day of racing and one that I'll remember for a long time," said HTC-Columbia Team Director Allan Peiper. "It was a day that proved the strength of the team and their ability to work together."
"They were forced to ride at the front for the first 100km chasing the break," he added. "Then they took a small rest during the headwind and moved back to the front when RadioShack attacked towards the end. They did all that work and then came together again to do a perfect lead out."
Greipel praised his teammates for their efforts.
"We knew it was going to be a windy day but I had teammates at the front all day and we were well protected," said the 2008 winner of the Santos Tour Down Under who is now hoping to again take home the trophy. "Before the first sprint we picked up the speed to make sure the break didn't get too much time.
"We stopped riding at 50km to go to save some energy and some other teams did some work then RadioShack put it in the gutter with about 10km to go so we went back to the front," he said. "With 5km to go we brought them back and stayed at the front until the finish. The guys did the perfect lead out and no-one could come around us."
"We feel good. Tomorrow will be a hard day but the guys will look after me on the hills and hopefully we can stay in the front group."
With two stages remaining Greipel is now sitting 20 seconds clear of McEwen with New Zealand's Greg Henderson (Team Sky) in third place overall at 24 seconds.
The only Skoda King of the Mountain climb came early in the stage which prompted the classification leader Austrian Thomas Rohregger (Milram) to go on the attack in the first kilometre. UniSA-Australia's David Kemp joined him along with Rabobank's Stef Clement (NED), Frenchman Anthony Ravard (AG2R la Mondiale) and Spaniard Jonathan Castroviejo (Euskaltel - Euskadi).
Team BMC's Thomas Frei (SUI) and another Euskaltel - Euskadi rider in Miguel Minguez (ESP) managed to get across to the lead five and they began to gap the peloton as the race wound it's way through The Gorge on the way to the climb up Fox Creek Rd.
UniSA-Australia's Tim Roe, who had started the day second on the climber's classification, tried to bridge the gap but he had left his run too late and ended up back in the bunch.
Rohregger achieved his aim of winning the maximum points over the climb with Kemp second and Clement third. The result puts Rohregger on 42 points, 14 points ahead of Kemp for the Skoda jersey.
“It is good, I think now I have quite a lot of points and it looks quite good that I can keep and defend the KOM jersey until Sunday," said Rohregger. “ I’m feeling quite good and I am looking forward to tomorrow for the Willunga stage. I love the mountains, especially long and steep mountains.
“I know Willunga Hill it is quite a steep hill but a long hill and I will definitely be having another try tomorrow”.
Rohregger was only 20 seconds off the race lead at the start of the day so the peloton had no intention of letting the leaders get too far in front. As the race went through the halfway point in Strathalbyn HTC-Columbia's entire team was on the front with Greipel tucked in at seventh wheel.
In the first Jayco intermediate sprint of the day in Langhorne Creek at the 94.7km mark Ravard took the points ahead of Kemp with Rohregger picking up a one second bonus for his third place.
Rohregger collected a further three seconds bonus when he won the second Jayco intermediate sprint at Milang (114.2km) ahead of Kemp with Team BMC's Thomas Frei (SUI) third.
"I tried to get some extra seconds for the general classification," said Rohregger. "It worked quite well but all in all at the end I lost some seconds because of the cross winds”.
Rohregger was 54 seconds behind Greipel at the finish.
After the second intermediate sprint three riders in the lead group Kemp, Castroviejo and Clement went on with it but the others sat up and waited for the peloton. With none of the three leaders in contention for overall honours they had hopes of being able to sneak away to contest the stage but as the race turned onto the final 20 kilometre stretch from the town of Finiss they rode smack into a howling southerly headwind.
As they were caught several tried their luck with attacks including seven time Tour de France champion, Lance Armstrong.
“Yeah we knew obviously it was windy, even this stage last year was really, really windy, I think this was equivalent and of course you knew the last 10 miles or so was going to be most likely cross winds so we tried to stay at the front and go just before that and Thomas (Vaitkus - his Radioshack team mate) just went and kept going and I turned around and there was just the two of us.
"He was going so fast that I was having trouble staying on the wheel so I figured either we had the team there which would have been the best outcome or just a few other guys with us and when we turned back the gap was already so big we didn’t have a choice but to keep going so we looked at each other and said well all right, lets go”.
But the sprinters had already caught a sniff of the finish line and HTC-Columbia was on a mission so it ended up as a 50 man battle for the line.
Greipel's stage victory has also added more points to his tally in the Jayco Sprint classification and he is now on 24 with Kemp sitting second on 16 points.
The leader in the Cycle Instead Young Rider classification is still Jurgen Roelandts (BEL) from Omega Pharma - Lotto and Stef Clement was awarded the Hindmarsh Most Aggressive Rider of the Day jersey, the SA Brilliant Blend leading team is AG2R La Mondiale.
Tomorrow the riders contest the penultimate and, what has proved in the past, decisive stage of the tour when they race 148 kilometre from Snapper Point up and around McLaren Vale including two laps up Old Willunga Hill.