- Adelaide 19 – 26 January 2014
Freire flashes home in Tanunda
Three time road race world champion, Oscar Freire, has won the Bupa Stage 4 of the Santos Tour Down Under in a frenetic sprint into Tanunda, in South Australia's Barossa wine growing region.
The 35 year old Spaniard led home a break of 50 riders who went clear on the final climb of the day leaving overnight leader Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) almost eight minutes behind.
"It was a difficult finale," said Freire. "I knew I had a really good chance to win. The race was hard (so) it was better for me.
"I'm happy to score the team's first victory of the year after joining Katusha," said Freire who is in his first race for the Russian outfit.
The Santos Tour Down Under ochre leader's jersey meantime is back on the shoulders of Swiss rider Martin Kohler (BMC) who finished with the lead group of 49 on today's stage and is a mere two seconds ahead of both Australian Michael Matthews (Rabobank) and Freire who are in second and third place overall respectively.
"I didn't expect to be back in the lead but we dropped Andre Greipel on the climb and then we were riding hard to make the gap bigger," said Kohler. "Tomorrow there will be ten or fifteen riders contesting the win at the top of Willunga Hill. It's going to be very hard and I don't know if I can keep this lead or not but I'm already happy with what I'm doing here.
"Our team BMC feels at home with all the support we get but of course we are the team of Cadel Evans," said Kohler noting the popularity of his Tour de France winning Australian team mate.
Canberra's Matthews was a little disappointed to not be in ochre but was looking on the bright side.
"The jersey I want is ochre and I'll try to get it tomorrow," said Matthews. "It's unfortunate that I missed it today by only two seconds. (But) not having the jersey today takes a lot of pressure off you but it's also better to be ahead of everyone else."
The 130km stage began in the suburb of Norwood and headed into the Adelaide Hills before travelling through the vineyards. A few riders tried to go clear early but the sprinters weren't having any of that because the first of today's two Jayco intermediate sprints was only 25 kilometres down the road at Kersbrook and bonus seconds were up for grabs. Greipel went hard at the line and nabbed the maximum three seconds with Matthews close behind to shave two seconds off his time.
After the sprint the pace settled and a small break went clear. Australian Jay McCarthy (UniSA-Australia) was in the quartet in front and collected the maximum points on offer at the first SKODA King of the Mountain for the day, a category two climb at Smith Hill (30km). Spaniard Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was second over the summit with Frenchman Blel Kadri (AG2R la Mondiale) third and Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) fourth.
Smukulis dropped back to the bunch soon after the climb but the remaining three rode on to contest the second Jayco sprint at Mt Pleasant (51km). This time Perez Moreno claimed the points ahead of Kadri and McCarthy. The lead margin hovered around the two minute mark for the next thirty kilometrees or so but as they approached the Menglers Hill category one climb (107km) they were caught by the bunch.
The capture of the trio triggered a pace increase and up Menglers the hill the tempo split the bunch with a more than a third of the peloton powering clear.
Amongst them was Freire who sailed home to win by a bike length from of Gerald Ciolek (Omega Pharma - Quickstep) (GER) who just edged out Italian Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan) for second on the line.
The Jayco Points classification is now being led by Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) who collected 12 ponts today for fourth place and sits on 36 points, one ahead of Greipel.
"I just try every day to move up on overall GC. It's nice to have the sprint jersey," said Boasson Hagen. "I didn't expect it but that's not the one I'm looking for, I want to win the jersey of the overall classification.
"My team mate [Geraint] Thomas gave me a great lead out but I came off his wheel a bit too early. The battle is still very open."
The SKODA King of the Mountain leader is now newly crowned Australian under 23 road race and time trial champion, Rohan Dennis, (UniSA-Australia) who was first over Menglers today to take his tally to 17 points, five clear of Belgian Thomas De Gendt (Vaconsoleil-DCM).
"I didn't think that I would lead the King of the Mountain because I only had one point from my breakaway on day one," said Dennis. "Tomorrow at the bottom of Willunga it will be all or nothing."
Kadri was named the Hindmarsh Most Agressive rider of the stage. Sky Pro Cycling is the Brilliant Blend leading team.
The Santos Tour Down Under continues tomorrow with the 'Queen' stage. Jayco stage 5 marks the first time the race has finished at the top of a climb with the 151.5km route starting in McLaren Vale and ending atop Old Willunga Hill which the riders will climb twice.
Stage 4 Jersey Summary
> Stage Winner - Oscar Freire (Katusha) (ESP)
> Santos Tour Down Under Leader - Martin Kohler (BMC) (SUI)
> Jayco Sprint Leader - Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky ) (NOR)
> SKODA King of the Mountain Leader - Rohan Dennis (UniSA-Australia) (AUS)
> Cycle Instead Best Young Rider - Michael Matthews (Rabobank) (AUS)
> Brilliant Blend Team Leader - Sky Pro Cycling
> Hindmarsh Most Aggressive Rider for stage 4- Blel Kadri (AG2R la Mondiale) (FRA)