Santos Tour Down Under: Andre Greipel sprints to victory as Cadel Evans sees lead shrink
Andre Greipel opened his account in 2014 with sprint victory on stage four at the Tour Down Under.
Last Updated: 24/01/14 10:23am
The powerful German (Lotto Belisol) was not to be denied into Victor Harbor, especially after chief rival Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) had been caught on the wrong side of a split in the peloton.
The 148.5km stage provided intriguing action, with a tight general classification battle and motivated contenders ensuring bonus seconds were the order of the day.
Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) took the fight to leader Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) throughout the stage, chipping five seconds off his compatriot's lead in the race to just seven heading into the weekend.
Greipel's final lead-out proved so strong that team-mate Jurgen Roelandts made it a Lotto Belisol one-two with Elia Viviani (Cannondale) rounding out the rostrum.
"I think this was actually the first opportunity for sprinters today," said Greipel after the stage. "We finished first and second and I think that says enough. It was a real team effort today.
"It was a really nervous stage the whole day. We survived the crosswind action from GreenEdge with six guys so we could put the pressure on after the intermediate sprint. I'm really happy that we finally got the win."
Day four represented the best chance for the sprinters to date with slightly cooler temperatures greeting the riders on the coast.
Gerrans began the stage staring at a 12-second deficit and quickly set about gaining back some time following an action-packed start out of Unley.
High speeds meant no break could get away ahead of the first intermediate sprint, with Gerrans winning the mass kick to claw back three seconds. Leader Evans and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) were among the riders contesting the sprint without success.
The race settled down briefly as five riders went away, building up a margin of over five minutes, yet despite that, Axel Domont (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) attacked their counterparts and went away.
With 50km to go as the race skirted along the coast the peloton burst apart in the crosswinds as Orica-GreenEdge hit the front. That saw the gap to the lead duo plummet on exposed roads and the main pack split in half. Kittel was the biggest casualty of the split, missing the chance to follow up his victory at the People's Choice Classic.
The race came back together ahead of the final intermediate sprint, which saw Gerrans bag another two seconds, while leader Evans had a mechanical issue mid-sprint, necessitating a bike change.
The event now heads into Saturday and the last chance to take significant seconds on GC as the riders return to the infamous Old Willunga Hill.
Highlights of stage four will be screened on Sky Sports 3 at 6.30pm and 11.30pm on Friday.
Stage four result
1 Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol, 3:33:07
2 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Belisol, same time
3 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale, st
4 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, st
5 Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Sharp, st
6 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge, st
7 Maxime Bouet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale
8 Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
9 Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ, st
10 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana, st
13 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing, st
16 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, st
1 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing, 14:19:46
2 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica Greenedge, +7secs
3 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida, +14
4 Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Sharp, +23
5 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin, +29
6 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, same time
7 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica Greenedge, +33
8 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC, st
9 Rory Sutherland (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
10 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky, st