Our rider finished runner-up in Murray Bridge, after a long and hectic day in the saddle.
At 158.2 kilometers, stage 4 was the longest of this year’s Tour Down Under and saw the peloton set out from Norwood and traverse a lumpy route that despite the short hills lent itself to the sprinters. What should have been a quiet start turned into a real nervous one, as several GC teams had an interest in the two intermediate sprints, and as a result, kept things together in the first 40 kilometers.
Five riders were eventually allowed to put three minutes between them and the peloton, but they were reabsorbed with 25 kilometers remaining, when an echelon alert threatened to split the field. On the long, straight and exposed roads to Murray Bridge, a stage finish for the first time in 19 years, the fight for positioning became intense, but in the end no cracks could be made in the bunch, who travelled at over 60km/h in the closing kilometers.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step assembled again at the front of the peloton and pushed a huge tempo as they negotiated a narrow section that came with less than two kilometers to go. Going into the final corner, Michael Mørkøv was the first to come through, and the Danish Champion launched Sam Bennett. The Irishman opened his sprint 175 meters from the line and looked poised to take another win at the Tour Down Under, but he was passed by Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) in the final meters and ended the stage in second place.
“We took control at the front and were really committed, but unfortunately the final was different from what was in the roadbook and I ran out of gas once I got over that crest. But we can look on the bright side of things, which is that we were again present when it mattered and our train worked even better that on the first day. This gives us a lot of confidence”, an upbeat Sam Bennett said in Murray Bridge.
A new opportunity for the fast men will come in Victor Harbor, although Friday’s stage 5 could easily go either way, as a climb inside the last 20 kilometers will more than sure gives some ideas to the riders determined on avoiding a bunch gallop.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images