Elia Viviani of Quick-Step Floors took his first win for Quick-Step Floors in stage 3 of the Santos Tour Down Under. The 28 year old Italian sprinted to the victory in Victor Harbor at the end of 120.5km of racing ahead of Phil Bauhaus of Team Sunweb and Caleb Ewan of Mitchelton-Scott who did enough to hold on to his overall race lead.
The final day for the sprinters to really have it all their own way before the climbers could potentially lay claim to the race a bit more the following the first three days of racing. The stage was due to be 146km in length but because of the extreme heat the race length was shortened by 20km. Two riders who’d been in the breakaway the previous day, Nicholas Dlamini of Dimension Data and Scott Bowden of UniSA-Australia, got into the break again today; attacking and heading away to the category 2 climb of Pennys Hill. Dlamini took the honours at the top of the climb and proceeded to sit up and let Bowden sit out in front while the peloton meandered through the early stages of the race.
With 38km of racing the gap was 3.05mins to the lone leader. Dlamini had not long been pulled back by the peloton and Lotto Soudal and Mitchelton-Scott were working together to limit the time gap to the Australian. Jack Bauer of Mitchelton-Scott was very present towards the front of the race, sitting third wheel in the peloton and looking after the interests of teammate Caleb Ewan; clad in the race leader’s ochre jersey.
Steadily the pack brought back the lead of Bowden to less than 2 minutes with 30km left to race. That gap dropped further to 1.20mins with 24km remaining and below 1 minute with 20km left to race. Knowing that the bunch were breathing down his neck Bowden sat up and was caught 19km from the finish line. The peloton were playing the stage like clockwork so far and with 18km left the stage was being led by Bahrain-Merida on the right of the road, AG2R La Mondiale through the middle and LottoNL-Jumbo on the left hand side. Also showing their presence were both Mitchelton-Scott and Team Sky who had a couple of riders towards the front.
Attacks weren’t over yet though and with Tiago Machado of Katusha-Alpecin made a move of his own. He built a lead that peaked at around the 17 second margin before the peloton nearing full throttle pulled him back with 8km to go.
The finale was all about Mitchelton-Scott. The Australian outfit had the race very much in control heading into the final 2km. But there was no shortage of aggression from the other teams with UAE Team Emirates and Team Sunweb both trying to get in on the action. That met with a bit of push and shove from Caleb Ewan who was determined to keep the wheels in front of him, namely of Daryl Impey and Alex Edmondson.
Through the final turn Daryl Impey led out Edmondson and it looked like a textbook lead out. But from six riders back a flying Elia Viviani caught Mitchelton-Scott out completely with a phenomenal turn of speed. Ewan was leading briefly but the Italian breezed past him with comparative ease to take a convincing win with Phil Bauhaus close behind him, edging Ewan back into third place; although the Australian was able to hold on to the overall race leader’s jersey. Ewan’s lead is currently 10 seconds over Viviani with Daryl Impey in third place at 14 seconds.