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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, January 25, 2020

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There is frequently more to be learned from the unexpected questions of a child than the discourses of men. - John Locke

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Tour Down Under stage four reports

We posted the report from the race organizer with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Caleb Ewan's Lotto-Soudal team:

Caleb Ewan sprinted again impressively at the end of stage 4 of the Santos Tour Down Under, coming past Sam Bennett and winning by a bike length ahead of the Irish champion and Belgian Jasper Philipsen. For Ewan it’s his second stage win in his first stage race of the season, his 9th since he started in this Australian WorldTour race.

Caleb Ewan

Caleb Ewan wins stage four. Sirotti photo

Crucial point in the last kilometer was a severe dogleg right turn with 300 meters to go.

“It was a very tight corner into the finish, but to be honest I like it when it is a technical finish”, said Caleb Ewan.  “I just told my last man, Roger Kluge, to put me on the wheel of Sam Bennett and that’s exactly what he did. I was off the road a bit with one kilometer to go but luckily Roger was still there and he dropped me on the wheel. That's exactly where I wanted to be on that last corner."

There were some crosswinds toward the end of the race but Lotto Soudal was well prepared.

“We knew there would be a lot of wind once we turned on to the flat part in the second half of the course, but my team was always on the front. I was never in trouble. They did such a good job today”, added Caleb Ewan.

Tomorrow’s stage 5 starts in Glenelg and finishes in Victor Harbor, where again the sprinters are expected to be on the podium.

“Tomorrow is one of those stages that could go either way. Last time we did this finish, I got dropped on the climbs. So, I hope my legs are better tomorrow”, concluded Caleb Ewan.

Here's the report from second-place Sam Bennett's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

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.

And here's the report from third-place Jasper Philipsen's UAE-Team Emirates:

Jasper Philipsen continued his consistent run on stage 4 of the Santos Tour Down Under, claiming 3rd place and moving himself back into the leaders jersey in the sprints classification.

The final sprint proved technical with Philipsen sticking to the wheel of Elia Viviani (Deceuninck Quickstep) coming into the last corner at 300m to go. It was again Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) who had the edge and took another convincing win, with Philipsen close behind in 3rd and showing his sprinting form.

Crosswinds threatened to split the group on the run-in to the line, though all the GC favourites finished in the main bunch including Diego Ulissi who continues in the hunt for the podium in 6th place, just 15 seconds behind race leader Richie Porte ( Trek Segafredo).

Tomorrow’s stage takes the riders from Glenelg to Victor Harbor (149km) with the punchy climb of Kirby hill coming close to the finish, though another technical sprint in anticipated.

Philipsen: “Coming into the final corner we knew it was going to be technical and I was a bit too far back in the final metres. It’s another podium placing but it’s been hard to get a win this week so far. The team worked really well for me and tomorrow could be another good chance for us to go for a good result.”

Team Bora-hansgrohe sent me this:

The fourth and longest stage of this year’s race took the riders over 152.8km of hilly terrain from Norwood to Murray Bridge. Several of the fast men saw today as a chance to notch up another win, and with 10km remaining, the sprinters’ teams gradually began manoeuvring themselves to the head of the field, where the fight for the best position began in earnest. BORA – hansgrohe also came to the front and in a hectic finale, Martin Laas crossed the line in sixth place, with teammate Erik Baška taking out eighth position, while C. Ewan took the honours.

“The plan was to ride for me today. However, unfortunately I didn’t feel so good at the beginning of the race, and had some pain in my legs. I hoped, that my condition would improve throughout the course of the race, but after the first half of racing, I wasn’t in an ideal situation. After talking with the Sports Director, we decided that we would ride for Erik. Over the final 5km, it was relatively hectic and we were pushed back somewhat. I tried to ride to the front, and was able to make it up there. I had Juraj Sagan and Michael Schwarzmann still with me, but unfortunately we lost contact with each other. I passed through the last corner in sixth place, and it was clear that we wouldn’t be able to win the stage.” – Martin Laas

“Today was a stage for the sprinters, and we wanted to ride for Martin, however during the race he didn’t feel so good, so we changed plans to focus on Erik. The finale was quite tumultuous and didn’t run quite as we had expected. Both riders went through the final corner in a good position, but in the end it wasn’t enough. The result wasn’t what we were hoping for but we still have potential for improvement, and we’ll try to capitalise on that during the next races. Tomorrow brings another opportunity for a sprint, so we will see what we can achieve there.” – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

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