Crosswinds, crashes and a hectic sprint on the penultimate stage of the World Tour race.
As soon as the peloton rolled away from Glenelg, three men rode clear and stretched out a nice lead of nearly four minutes. It should have been enough to keep them in the lead until the final ten kilometres, but with two intermediate sprints placed in the first part of the stage and the overall standings still tight, some of the GC teams had other plans and started a mad chase which resulted in the trio being caught on the slopes of the Selicks Hill classified climb.
Things looked to calm down 70 kilometers from the finish, when Matthieu Ladagnous (Groupama-FDJ) and Aidan Toovey (UniSA-Australia) went on the attack and in the blink of an eye opened a 3:30 gap. Then, after exiting the feed zone, a few teams joined hands and applied pressure on the bunch in the strong crosswinds, hoping to create some cracks.
Panic spread within the peloton and many riders were forced to dig deep in order not to get distanced, preventing the bunch from disintegrating. A second attempt of echelons followed with about 20 kilometers to go, and despite other riders being spat out the back, there were no big-name casualties. A crash which occurred inside the last ten kilometres took down, among others, overall leader Patrick Bevin (CCC Team), who was waited by the pack before the speed went up with the flamme rouge in sight.
Elia Viviani was again in the mix for Deceuninck – Quick-Step, who took the front of the peloton in the final with the likes of Michael Mørkøv and Fabio Sabatini, finishing fifth on the stage won by Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) after Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), who crossed the line first, was relegated by the race commissaires for head-butting.
First wearer of the ochre jersey, Viviani notched up in Strathalbyn his third top 10 finish at this year’s edition of the Tour Down Under, which concludes on Sunday, with a stage atop Willunga Hill. Dries Devenyns will start the day in 12th place, hoping to claw back time and finish in the top 10 at the Aussie race for the second consecutive year.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images