André Greipel won stage 4 of the Santos Tour Down Under on Friday in Victor Harbor, Australia. Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) won a reduced bunch sprint after the peloton ripped apart in crosswinds midway through the 148-kilometer leg from Unley.
Jürgen Roelandts (Lotto) was second and Elia Viviani (Cannondale) was third.
“I think this was actually the first opportunity for sprinters today,” said Greipel. “We finished first and second. It was a real team effort today.”
Former Tour de France champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) defended his overall lead on Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge). Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) is third with two stages remaining.
Gerrans scrapped throughout the stage for mid-race time bonuses, taking a total of five seconds over the two sprint points. Those bonuses narrowed the gap between Gerrans and Evans to just seven seconds ahead of the finish.
Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) and Axel Domont (Ag2r La Mondiale) made the day’s long escape, but a stiff wind and a motivated Orica team made certain the duo wouldn’t survive into the final 30km.
When the bunch hit crosswinds inside 60km to go, Orica went to the front, splitting the peloton, with roughly 30 riders making the first group. Greipel said after the stage that he knew the area surrounding the stage’s final climb well and Lotto made the split with six riders. The bunch swelled to about 40 riders inside the final 30km, with Lotto and Drapac taking up the pace-making for Greipel and Jonathan Cantwell, respectively. One man missing the split was Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano).
The Kittel group gave up the ghost inside the final 20km and by 10km to go, the gap was above seven minutes.
Garmin began contributing to the work at the head of the bunch in the final 15km and with 8.5km to go, Evans’ BMC Racing teammates pulled him to the head of the race. Evans stayed clear of the sprinters’ teams, though, and Lotto took command for the run-in to the line.
Wurf took another crack leading into a small rise with 6km to go, but soon faded. Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammates Jan Bakelants and Serge Pauwels countered, taking a dozen seconds over the top of the ramp.
The attackers carried six seconds through the first of a series of chicanes inside the final 2.5km of the stage. Lotto would not be denied the sprint, however, and the Belgian squad launched Greipel to the line for a record 15th career Tour Down Under victory.
The Tour Down Under continues Saturday with the 151km fifth stage, from McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill. The penultimate stage’s finish climb should produce the race’s overall winner, with Sunday’s final stage set for a likely bunch sprint in Adelaide.