Andre Greipel today won the fourth stage of the Tour Down Under in which Simon Gerrans almost halved his overall deficit to Cadel Evans.
Evans's 12 second advantage was reduced to seven at the conclusion of the lumpy run to Victor Habor where Greipel beat Lotto Belisol teammate Jurgen Roelandts and Cannondale's Elia Viviani for his first win of 2014.
"We finished first and second and this says enough that it was a real team effort," said Greipel.
"I know this area quite well, I knew the last climb also, so I knew it was all open with the big crosswind there. It was an incredible team effort today and I think we deserved the win."
Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) was not part of the reduced peloton that contested the finish. The German was caught in a split on the sole categorised KOM some 52km from the finish.
"Maybe the position was not good but in the end ... I think it would be a big surprise if I was there with my shape, now, in January," the 25 year old said.
"We did not achieve our goal to go for the final, for the sprint, but I think we should still not be disappointed because it was a very hard race and we tried to give our best. Now we just move on and look to the next race."
Orica-GreenEdge took full advantage of time bonuses available at intermediate sprints to better position Gerrans in the overall standing's ahead of tomorrow's queen stage to Willunga Hill.
Gerrans won the first intermediate and his team reeled in the main break of Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) and Axel Domont (AG2R La Mondiale) before the second where he crossed the line behind Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp).
The team inflicted more damage in the nervous and windy conditions, increasing the tempo 5km out from the bottom of the category two Reservoir Rd climb on which the peloton split.
"I think the priority tomorrow will be to win the stage," Orica-GreenEdge sports director Matt White said. "It's a fair way into the stage - the bonuses - and obviously if we're trying to win the stage we can't do everything."
Gerrans has identified Sky leader Richie Porte as a favourite for tomorrow's queen stage. Porte's teammate Geraint Thomas, who went for but missed out on intermediate time bonuses today, is still focused on supporting the Australian despite being better placed on GC.
"We saw the way he climbed up Corkscrew so he's got the climbing legs. A stage win is definitely possible," Thomas said. "Hopefully that can move him up into a podium position as well.
"To be honest I haven't felt super on the climbs. For sure I'll give it a good go but Richie is our No.1."
Evans missed out on times bonuses in both intermediate sprints. An untimely mechanical, which delayed Thomas, took him out of the running at the second check.
"It was a nervous day in the wind," Evans reflected. "Orica really took control of the race putting the whole team on the front for the intermediate sprints. Obviously the first one didn't go favourably for me. The second one went worse. If I'm going to win the race I certainly have to do something on Willunga."
The penultimate stage tomorrow is a 151.5km run from McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill and features a hilltop finish.
Tour Down Under 2014, stage four: Unley to Victor Harbor, 148.5km
1. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol 3-33-07
2. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Belisol at 6 secs
3. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale
4. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
5. Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Sharp
6. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge
7. Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
8. Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo
9. Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ
10. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana
Overall classification after stage four
1. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC 14-19-46
2. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica Greenedge at 7 secs
3. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 14 secs
4. Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Sharp at 23 secs
5. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin at 29 secs
6. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky
7. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica Greenedge at 33 secs
8. Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC
9. Rory Sutherland (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo
10. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky
Cadel Evans has some bike trouble
Andre Greipel takes the stage win
Tour Down Under 2014: Latest news
Matt White aiming for record pie count
Robbie Hunter happy in new DS role
Frank Schleck embarks on comeback in Australia
Richie Porte and Sky primed for Tour Down Under assault
Fire threatens Tour Down Under start
Tour Down Under 2014 start list
Tour Down Under 2014: Race reports
Reporting by Sophie Smith
Stage four: Greipel takes sprint, Evans maintains lead
Stage three: Evans takes stage and race lead
Stage two: Ulissi wins, Gerrans keeps overall lead
Stage one: Gerrans takes first blood
People's Choice Classic: Kittel pips Greipel to win
Tour Down Under 2014: Photo galleries
Photography by Graham Watson
Stage four, by Graham Watson
Stage three, by Graham Watson
Stage two, by Graham Watson
Stage one, by Graham Watson
People's Choice Classic, by Graham Watson
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Sophie Smith is an Australian journalist, television reporter and presenter, who has provided coverage for Cycling Weekly from races across the world. She has covered eight Tours de France, as well as reporting for national and international newspapers as well as other magazines.
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