Simon Gerrans took his second stage win in a row in Victor Harbor, giving him a 14 second overall lead ahead of Jay McCarthy in the Santos Tour Down Under. The Orica GreenEDGE star won stage 4, with Ben Swift of Team Sky in second and Giacomo Nizzolo of Trek-Segafredo in third.
The 138km stage from Norwood to Victor Harbor was another one for the sprinters, although they would first have to get over the climb of Port Elliot which featured about 20km from the finish. Five riders quickly moved to the front of the race and broke away in the opening 15km. Trek-Segafredo’s Julian Arredondo, Lieuwe Westra of Astana, Thomas De Gendt of Lotto Soudal, Georg Preidler of GIANT-Alpecin and Jarlinson Pantano of IAM Cycling were the riders in the move, however with Georg Preidler and Lieuwe Westra both just 37 seconds behind new race leader Simon Gerrans, the move was too much of a threat to be given a serious advantage.
Orica GreenEDGE took control of the pace setting and quickly brought the break back to heel. Interestingly Orica GreenEDGE’s strategy on the front of the race looked like it was not to let a break go until the first intermediate sprint had been cleared. So it proved as the Australian outfit didn’t let any moves gain any ground and Simon Gerrans gained maximum points at the intermediate sprint ahead of Tinkoff’s Jay McCarthy. This increased Gerrans’ overall lead by just a second to 4 seconds on his compatriot; but the Santos Tour Down Under is known for being a race that is typically decided by seconds and not minutes.
Alexis Gougeard of AG2R La Mondiale, David Tanner of IAM Cycling and Patrick Shaw of Uni-SA finally managed to launch a move that stuck, and the trio took off to gain a healthy advantage over the field. With 44km covered the three riders had built a lead of 5.30mins but that would be the peak of their advantage, as Orica GreenEDGE continued to set the pace and began bringing them back into the fold.
With 50km remaining the gap to the break was just 2 minutes and it was looking inevitable that a catch would be made. On the run in to the climb in Port Elliot Orica GreenEDGE began to receive support on the front of the peloton, with BMC Racing and TInkoff both joining the action at the head of affairs. The result was that the breakaway ended up caught with 24km still left to race and everything was to play for. BMC Racing took the challenge of setting the tempo up the climb with Richie Porte and Team Sky’s Sergio Henao charging up the climb to contest the points; which saw Henao come out on top.
Coming down into Victor Harbor there was a severe crash that brought down a number of riders with Lampre-Merida having a couple of riders taking a tumble. Despite a late attack the field stayed together, and about 50 riders hit the final kilometre together and got ready for the sprint. Team Sky led the way with BMC Racing as they went under the banner, but Simon Gerrans was perfectly positioned and ready to pounce. Daryl Impey led the ochre jersey out and with about 75-100m to go Gerrans hit for home with Ben Swift on his wheel. There was no one who could come past him though and Gerrans went on to celebrate his second successive win.
Patrick Bevin of Cannondale Pro Cycling was the first Kiwi across the line, coming home for 11th in the sprint finish. George Bennett of LottoNL-Jumbo and Jesse Sergent of AG2R La Mondiale crossed the line together just 8 seconds behind the leaders while Greg Henderson of Lotto Soudal finished in a small group that included Astana teammates Arman Kamyshev and Dmitriy Gruzdev.