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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, January 19, 2019

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Tour Down Under stage 4 team reports

Here's the update from stage winner Daryl Impey's Mitchelton-Scott team:

Defending champion Daryl Impey has taken an emotional victory on stage four of the Tour Down Under, recovering over the famous Corkscrew climb to sprint to victory ahead of race leader Patrick Bevin (CCC Team).

Despite his overall victory last year, it’s the first stage win at the Tour Down Under for Impey, who has previously podiumed on six occasions.

Daryl Impey wins stage 4

Daryl Impey wins stage 4. Sirotti photo

The South African, who dedicated his victory to a family friend who passed away just before his travel to Australia, now sits second overall, seven seconds behind Bevin.

Six riders rode out to over five minute’s advantage during the stage, which caused a strong reaction from the bunch as five teams committed to the chase. Mitchelton-SCOTT put Luke Durbridge and Michael Hepburn to the front, and they were joined by Astana Pro Team, Trek-Segafredo, CCC Team and EF Education First. By the bottom of the final climb, the remnants of the break were in sight and no longer a threat for the stage.

The first true sign of climbing form, the Corkscrew, didn’t disappoint. Michael Woods (EF Education First), Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), Wout Poels (Team Sky) and George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) rode supreme and crested the top with a 15-second advantage over a reduced group of chasers.

With a teammate for support, Impey settled into the chase group on the descent as Lucas Hamilton moved to the front in pursuit of the leaders. The effort was good enough to bring the leading quartet back with two kilometres to go, setting up a dramatic final corner and reduced bunch sprint to finish.

Impey chose the wheel of stage two winner and current race leader Bevin, before jumping ahead to claim his first ever Tour Down Under stage victory.

Daryl Impey – Stage 4 winner:
“A good friend of mine passed away from a heart attack recently. I left (South Africa) in a bit of a sad mood and it was a pretty rough time for our whole family because he played a big part in my family. When I came here I wanted to do something special and to be able to deliver today was pretty emotional and definitely a confidence booster.

“We are around the mark now. Seven seconds is still quite hard to get on Paddy (Bevin), he is riding really well and we are quite similar in characteristics. We’re going to have to go for it, tomorrow will be quite an interesting stage and definitely Willunga will still be the decider, although Paddy has got a really nice buffer to the other GC guys.

“I think we have to be aggressive wherever we can. There’s no doubt that trying to win this race is based on seconds, we learnt that last year, so we’re going to have to try to take our opportunities and make things happen and hopefully it pays off.

“Lucas (Hamilton), the win was actually due to him, he did a great job. He is still a young professional, but we had a plan in the beginning that he was going to ride his own climb and wait for me in the middle which he did, and then he did his work on the downhill and brought them back. He played a massive role so I could just sit back and think about the sprint. He had an amazing ride for such a young guy.

“I rode my own race. I knew I had Lucas there, I could see Paddy just in front so I knew if I stayed around that range we had a good enough group, that we were going to cooperate on the downhill, to try to bring those four back.  I just focused on my own climb and I was very happy to still be able to do what I did at the end.

“The win gives me a nice boost. I was unsure going into the Corkscrew knowing I’ve had good and bad times. In the middle of the Corkscrew when I was doubting myself I was thinking ‘jeez you have to keep pushing.’ I’m glad I did and I’m a lot more confident now going into Willunga.”

GC leader Patrick Bevin's CCC Team sent me this race report:

18 January 2019, Campbelltown (AUS): Patrick Bevin’s dream run at the Santos Tour Down Under continued on stage four with the race leader successfully neutralizing attacks on the Corkscrew climb before sprinting to second place on the fast run into the finish in Campbelltown.

Patrick Bevin

Patrick Bevin will start stage five in the GC leader's ochre jersey.

Bevin’s six bonus seconds saw the New Zealander gain time on all of his General Classification rivals, with the exception of stage winner Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-SCOTT) who sits seven seconds behind Bevin with two stages remaining.

Earlier in the stage, six riders formed a breakaway that was allowed to go more than five minutes ahead while behind, CCC Team took control of the peloton before being joined by Trek-Segafredo and Mitchelton-SCOTT to help bring the group back.

With the breakaway’s advantage down to one minute with 25 kilometers remaining and the Corkscrew climb looming, the battle for positioning was on at the front of the bunch, at which point attacks came from the breakaway. Riders began to drop from the main group leaving a reduced bunch to catch the remaining breakaway riders on the early slopes of the climb, and from which the climbers began to attack as they hit the steep gradient.

Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), Wout Poels (Team Sky), and Mike Woods (EF Education First) broke clear towards the top of the climb and started the descent with a 15-second advantage but Bevin set a blistering pace on the descent and made the catch with two kilometers to go, creating a 20-rider group to battle for the win.

Bevin launched his sprint and looked set to take the win but a late surge from Impey saw the 2018 race winner come over the top of Bevin, while Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana Pro Team) rounded out the podium and moved into third place on the General Classification, 11 seconds behind Bevin.

Bevin’s third consecutive top-five result saw him also take the lead in the sprint classification. With a bunch sprint expected on stage five, the battle for the ochre jersey will come down to the iconic Willunga Hill finish on Sunday.

Patrick Bevin:
"That was a very tough day. I knew coming down the gorge, it was still a long way to the finish. The race didn't finish on top of the climb. It was really hard to stop us coming across in the downhill. I took the onus up as much as I had to on the descent. As that group got bigger it was at the point where if I could take any time bonus, it was good. Any is better than none and I wasn’t going to risk losing time to anyone. It was a bit unfortunate to come to the top with Daryl [Impey] but coming second on the stage and keeping the lead is kind of the best-case scenario for me. We as a team had a lot of help before because we told them we're not going to be the only team to work again all day. There are still two types of guys who can win the overall: the sprinters who can climb, Daryl is the first of them, and obviously, there's Richie [Porte]. From now on, for us, it's about managing both parties.”

"To give up four seconds to Daryl is a great result at the end of the day because I don’t feel like he is climbing better than I am and we put time into the pure climbers. It would be great to take more time tomorrow. That would be a real step towards the final day in Willunga because I’m still only 21 seconds over Richie before Willunga. It’s not a huge buffer. Fortunately, this race is about being an all-rounder. Basically, you have to sprint better than the climbers and climb better than the sprinters.”

“For me, personally, this has been an opportunity to grow. Even the stage I won, had I had a Richie Porte or Rohan Dennis on the team then I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity. I definitely wouldn’t have had the opportunity to sneak some time away on the first day. The team is racing totally different and it’s suiting me down to the ground. I really feel like I’m enjoying the way we are racing and the style of racing.”

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

After the opening stages of the Tour Down Under had allowed the sprinters and all-rounders to show their form, it was today that the GC riders would take centre stage. Looming large over the stage profile was the Corkscrew – a 9% ascent that came late in the day and so would prove pivotal. While the break ruled much of the day, it was a select group of GC riders who shook up the standings with a late burst to set off the fight for the overall win. In spite of pushing hard to stay in touch, it wasn’t BORA-hansgrohe’s day, with Jay McCarthy struggling on the final climb, Gregor Mühlberger was the first of the team to finish, coming in 25th on the stage after a hard effort.

Riders had no time to warm up today, as it was straight into the climbing from the start of stage 4, and this was how it continued throughout the 129.2km stage. All eyes would be on the King of the Mountains points climb today, the Corkscrew, coming just under 6km from the end of the stage. This 9% climb would be pivotal, whether as a launch pad for a late attack or somewhere the field would be thinned out ahead of the finale.

Six riders today broke away, making their move early on before building up an advantage that topped out at more than five minutes before the peloton started clawing back time. In a contrast to previous stages, the weather was cooler and even saw some rain on the course, but this could make the descent of the Corkscrew more treacherous for those riders looking to make an impact on the stage here. Having held on all day to this point, it was on the King of the Mountains climb that the break started to fade, with attacks showing who had the legs to try and contest the stage, but the committed peloton had put in a huge effort to make the catch, sweeping up the last of the break as the GC riders showed themselves for the first time in the race, with the Tour taking on a different tone in the final three days. First of the BORA-hansgrohe riders to finish was Gregor Mühlberger, who finished 21 seconds down on the GC bunch, as the team looked ahead to later stages to make an impact. 

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan (blue points leader jersey) finished 29th, a few seconds after Gregor Mühlberger

From the Finish Line
"It was a hard stage. The six guys in the breakaway set a fast pace and that didn't make it easy for us in the peloton. In the end, it was up to the legs you had on the Corkscrew. At the beginning of the climb I wasn't very well positioned and I missed the front group. I gave my best, I tried to reach them but I wasn't able. I'm disappointed with the result today." – Gregor Mühlberger

"Jay McCarthy didn't have the best day, he was a bit struggling on the climb. Gregor tried his best, he nearly made it to the front group but in the end, he missed it. Unfortunately, this isn't the result we were hoping for. We'll fight for the sprint tomorrow with Peter." – Patxi Vila, Sport Director 

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