Tour Down Under 2014 Stage 4
Unley to Victor Harbor 148.5km
The Santos Tour Down Under was treated to an unusual sight on stage four. Typically, the team of the race leader tries to control the pace of the peloton. But on the 148.5km (92.3mi) road from Unley to Victor Harbor, the Orica-Greenedge team of second-placed Simon Gerrans took control of the pack.
This was a good thing for Cannondale Pro Cycling. Their man, Elia Viviani, believed this was one of the two best days for him to streak to a stage victory. If the Orica squad kept everything together, Cannondale could save their energy for a vicious leadout in the final few kilometers.
The reason Orica was riding so hard at the front was in the hopes of delivering Gerrans to victories at the two intermediate sprints. The first three people across the line get three, two, and one second respectively. This means that Gerrans could erase much of his deficit to race leader Evans if he could win the two sprints, and maybe even vault back into the lead, if he could finish in the top three of the stage.
So, breaking with tradition, neither a Uni SA nor a Drapac rider, nor anybody was able to get away in the opening kilometers. Orica set up Gerrans for the first intermediate sprint, and he won it.
Orica's effort to the intermediate sprint caused them to take a breather. Cannondale's Cameron Wurf attacked with four others, and got a gap. They staked a four-and-a-half minute lead on the pack, but it wasn't enough for Wurf, who attacked and only Axel Domont of AG2R went with. They pushed their lead to almost five minutes, the biggest lead of any break at the Tour.
Then, Orica decided to chase. They wanted to get Gerrans more seconds at the second intermediate sprint. They lined up at the front in an echelon and drilled it. They first blew out half the field, including most of Viviani's leadout train, and then gobbled up Wurf and Domont. Into the second sprint, Gerrans went with race leader Cadel Evans on his wheel. Evans had a mechanical and got nothing while Gerrans took second, and two more seconds.
Going into the final rise of the day, only a handful of kilometers remaining, Wurf attacked again. He knew his chances of escaping were slim, but he wanted to inject some chaos into the sprint trains and allow Viviani to find a good position behind Lotto-Belisol's Andre Greipel, who had most of his sprint train left. It worked.
On the final turn, Viviani got boxed out as racers fought for position. Greipel, set up perfectly by his team, started the sprint in second position. Viviani, blasted up the right side, weaving through traffic. He was closing fast. But not as fast as the finish line. Greipel won, with Viviani in third.
This wasn't quite the result Viviani wanted. "I targeted this stage and I expected to be competitive. The feeling were really good and I thought this was a really good chance. Third place is not a bad result, of course, but l know I could be better. Cameron supported me until the final km, then the fight for the positions put me back. I knew Greipel's wheel was the right one. I did many sprints to come back into position and the final one showed I was able to fight for the win. I hope it's a good signal for the next stages." Wurf for his efforts was awarded the most aggressive prize for the stage.
Stage five, 151.5km (94.1mi) long, takes the riders from McLaren Vale over Willunga Hill twice, the second for the finish. This is going to be the full-throttle battle for the ochre leader's jersey. Cannondale's Cameron Wurf might light out early in the hopes of getting a long leash, but the big battle will be with the top riders on general classification as the hill will give them a chance to stake a claim on overall victory.
Tour Down Under 2014
Stage 4 Unley to Victor Harbor 148.5km
1. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol 3:33:07
2. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Belisol same time
3. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale same time
4. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica Greenedge same time
5.Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp same time
Stage Results Cannondale Pro Cycling
48. Cameron Wurf (Aus) same time
76. Matej Mohoric (Slo) 0:13:55
92. Guillaume Boivin (Can) same time
119. Alberto Bettiol (Ita) same time
124. Matthias Krizek (Aut) same time
126. George Bennett (NZl) same time
1. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 14:19:46
2. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica Greenedge 0:00:07
3. Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp 0:00:23
4. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin 0:00:30
5. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky same time
General Classification Cannondale Pro Cycling
29. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 0:03:33
56. Elia Viviani (Ita) 0:12:42
64. George Bennett (NZl) 0:15:13
85. Matej Mohoric (Slo) 0:22:14
86. Guillaume Boivin (Can) same time
105. Matthias Krizek (Aut) 0:27:46
112. Alberto Bettiol (Ita) 0:29:12