Tour Down Under: Solid teamwork on tough day
The Etixx – Quick-Step riders showed great spirit once again in Oz, and thanks to their effort, Petr Vakoč lies now in 19th place.
The start of stage 4 was fast and nervous, with many riders attempting to go clear, but without any luck, as the teams fighting for the overall classification kept things together until the first intermediate sprint, won by Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge). Then, David Tanner (IAM), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R) and Patrick Shaw (UniSA) attacked and formed a three-man breakaway which stayed at the front for 70 kilometers, having a maximum gap of 5:45.
Coming into the last hill of the day, the GC men tried to outpace each other for a better position, while the sprinters struggled to hang on, hoping for a more relaxed rhythm so that they could contest the final in Victor Harbour. There were no attacks on the Port Elliot climb, but the pace still was high, which led to many cyclists scrambling to keep in touch with the peloton. As a result, around 35 riders made the split and were left in the main group on the descent, were Jesus Herrada (Movistar) decided to attack, but didn’t get too much space from Sky and was brought back.
In the last kilometer, Daryl Impey launched teammate Simon Gerrans and the overall leader comfortably recorded his second victory in a row, after he outsprinted Ben Swift (Sky) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo). With two days to go, Gerrans has a 14-second buffer on Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff) and 26 seconds on Rohan Dennis (BMC).
Three Etixx – Quick-Step riders came in the same time as the winner: Martin Velits, Petr Vakoč, and Pieter Serry. Teamwork was the key word for the squad on a hard day, with headwind, crazy speeds and a lot of twists and turns on the course, at the end of which Vakoč jumped to 19th in the general classification, just 50 seconds behind.
Coming into the stage, the team had plans to use the weather conditions into its advantage, but the expected crosswinds never came, and the team was left tied to its hands. Sport director Rik Van Slycke explained: "The performance of the team was good today. Unfortunately, the wind and weather conditions didn't turn out according to the predictions. We expected the last hour of the race to have crosswinds and rain, but it didn't happen, so it was very difficult to get away from the main bunch. But all in all, the team worked very well today and we look with optimism to the penultimate day of the race."
Stage 5 could determine the winner of the race, considering the peloton will climb the Old Willunga Hill before going on the fast and technical descent and again on the 3 km-long Willunga (7,6% average gradient) – Australia’s most famous ascent – where fireworks could come early from the riders who’ll go all in for their last shot at taking the general classification.
©Tim De Waele