RIDE spent stage four in the passenger seat of the Orica-GreenEdge team car. It was a day the Australian team demonstrated that he has far from surrendered to Cadel Evans in the race for overall honours in the opening round of the 2014 WorldTour.
Click on the image of Mathew Hayman (below) for our gallery from the stage.
Once again the Tour Down Under returned to Victor Harbor and once again André Greipel won a sprint. The German champion and his Belgian Lotto-Belisol team-mate Jurgen Roelandts finished first and second in the 148.5km stage from Unley. Elia Viviani was third and, just out of the time bonus placings was former race leader Simon Gerrans in fourth.
Gerrans might have missed out of reducing his deficit to Cadel Evans in the general classification at the finish of the fourth stage but the Australian champion, who started the stage 12 second behind on GC is now just seven seconds shy of the ochre leader’s jersey.
Orica-GreenEdge dictated tactics in the race to the first intermediate sprint in Echunga and Gerrans duly did what his team hoped he would: win the three-second bonus on offer. He and his Tasmanian team-mate Matt Goss were first and second, with Nathan Haas of Garmin-Sharp third and they earned three-, two- and one-second bonuses for their efforts.
An escape group then formed and five riders were originally involved including Axel Domont of AG2R La Mondiale, the best on GC of the quintet. Eventually three dropped out of this lead group, leaving Domont and Cameron Wurf of Cannondale up front. This meant that another bonus was on offer at the second intermediate sprint… but again Orica-GreenEdge dictated how the race would unfold.
Thanks to strong riding by Luke Durbridge, Mathew Hayman, Daryl Impey and Michael Matthews, the break was caught before Yankalilla setting Gerrans up for another bid for time bonuses. He sprinted and was beaten to the line by Haas meaning Gerrans got another two seconds closer to Evans on GC.
It sets things up for another showdown on Old Willunga Hill on Saturday.
Gerrans, the winner of the fifth stage in 2013, versus Cadel Evans the leader of the 2014 edition after four stages. These are the two at the top of the overall rankings but stage two winner Diego Ulissi is in third (at 14″), Nathan Haas fourth (at 23″) and Robert Gesink of Belkin in fifth (at 29″).