Victor Harbor spells victory for Viviani
Italian Elia Viviani has broken through to claim victory in the Big Screen Video Stage 3 of the Santos Tour Down Under.
It’s the first win in three appearances for the Quick Step Floors team rider who has been edging closer to a win after a fourth on the opening stage and sixth yesterday.
Behind him in second place was German Phil Bauhaus (Team Sunweb) with Australian Caleb Ewan third across the line which ensured he held onto the Santos Ochre Race Leader’s jersey.
Race organisers decided to shorten today’s stage by 26 kilometres due to the extreme weather that saw the air temperature top 42 degrees while the temperature on the road was hotter still. Despite the conditions the race time for the shortened 120 kilometre route of 3.04.40 was faster than expected.
“It was a really hot day but I managed to refresh myself until 200 metres to go,” said the 28 year old stage winner who last year claimed seven season victories riding with Team Sky. “My (new) team has done an amazing job and I thank them all.
“I’ve never won so early in a season and it’s not easy to have a good condition in January but I’ve done some work on the track for that,” said the 2016 omnium Olympic Champion who headed to the Adelaide Superdrome last Thursday and Saturday for training sessions on the track to tune up his sprint condition. “I’m delighted to win the fourth bunch sprint of the year.”
Quick Step Floors team director Rik van Slycke was thrilled to see his new recruit score a win.
“It is an important victory for Elia today,” said van Slycke. “It is always important to get an early victory, because it starts the ball rolling.
“In each day this week he was getting stronger, and today there was no question,” said van Slycke. “He made a smart sprint and he deserves the win.”
Ewan was disappointed to miss out on a win after he misjudged the conditions in the finishing straight and left his sprint too late.
“I got an absolutely perfect lead out, My teammates did exactly what I asked them to do but I stuffed up at the end,” admitted the young Mitchelton Scott speedster. “There was a head wind and I waited for too long.
“It’s our fourth sprint and there’s a fourth different winner (which) shows how high the (level of) competition is,” said Ewan who has a ten second overall lead on Viviani and 14 seconds on his team mater, Daryl Impey as the race heads into two days more suited to the climbers than the sprinters. “Mentally I can calm down in the next two days and I’ll be back in a winning mood on the last day.”
Ewan also maintains his lead in the southaustralia.com Sprint and the #seesouthaustralia Best Young Rider classifications while Bahrain Merida continues to lead the Wilson Parking Winning Team rankings.
The stage began in the beachside suburb of Glenelg where the temperature was already over 35 degrees before the official start and whilst the crowds were understandably down on last year a hardy 85 thousand fans turned out to support the stars of world cycling.
South African Nicolas Dlamini, Team Dimension Data was again on the attack early and, as was the case on Wednesday, UniSA-Australia team rider Scott Bowden was his companion in the early breakaway.
The pair set up a handy lead as the bunch rode tempo more than five minutes back, conserving energy in the hot, gusty conditions.
“It wasn’t really difficult to ride away from the bunch today because it was so hot and not many riders wanted to attack,” said Dlamini. “In the breakaway we rode our own pace.”
The tactic for Dlamini was obvious as the only Subaru King of the Mountain contest of the day was 38 kilometres into the stage. The 3 kilometre long climb up Pennys Hill boasted a seven percent gradient an was the first category one climb of the Tour.
Bowden launched an attack early on the climb but misjudged the effort and with 600 metres of climbing still to go to the summit he was spent and Dlamini powered on to claim the maximum points.
Bowden collected second place while 2017 Tour champion, Richie Porte (BMC Racing team) led the peloton across the line for third place points.
“I played it really tactically to win the KOM again,” said Dlamini. “It was important to get today as it was a Category 1 climb. There’s no way I’ll win the stage tomorrow but I can target the first time up Willunga Hill to secure the jersey on Saturday.”
Around 20 kilometres further on was the first southaustralia.com Sprint of the day was also claimed by Dlamini ahead of Bowden. Back in the field a mini battle for points was fought out with Bora hansgrohe’s Sam Bennett picking up third place points.
That flurry of pace saw the lead margin come down to two minutes and with the climbing jersey safely on his back for another day Dlamini dropped back to rejoin the main bunch.
Bowden continued and maintained a steady tempo to keep the bunch a couple of minutes behind him. The second southaustralia.com Sprint came at Inman Valley, and Bowden, alone in front, claimed top points.
As the peloton approached the sprint line, a minute-and-a-half later, Colombian Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha Alpecin) surged off the front drawing a counter attack by Australian Jay McCarthy (Bora hansgrohe). But another Katusha rider, Australian Nathan Haas, came over the top of him to claim second place points ahead of McCarthy in third.
UAE Team Emirates rider Marco Marcato said the peloton had welcomed the decision to shorten the stage.
“Every time the speed went up, everyone started to suffer,” said Marcato. “We know it’s hot at this race, the heat is part of this race, but if we race another 20 kilometres the result in the same.
“Today I think we emptied the fridge of water bottles in the team car.
“Tomorrow? That will be OK, because it is only one hard effort at the end,” said Marcato of tomorrow’s Bupa Stage 4 will start one hour earlier than the published time in a bid to minimise the impact the extreme heat.
The stage will set out from Norwood at 10.30am the peloton will tackle the famous Norton Summit for the Subaru King of the Mountain before riding uphill into Uraidla and and under the finish arch at the end of the 128 kilometre stage.