André Greipel proved beyond doubt that he is the fastest sprinter at the Tour Down Under when he took his third stage win in Goolwa today.
The HTC Columbia rider got another perfect ride to the line from his lead-out train to beat comeback man Robbie McEwen and consolidate his overall lead. The well drilled win came despite the last 20 kilometres of racing being run in chaotic conditions as strong cross winds battered the peloton.
Greipel was given an armchair ride to 100 metres to go, a team performance that HTC Columbia boss Bob Stapleton said was one of their best in the last two years. “I’m just really proud of the way the team worked, they really gelled,” Stapleton said.
“That was a crazy day out there with the wind. I think everyone knew it was coming, but then when it came it was more than a lot of people were prepared for. There were at least 40 guys off the back, [riders were] in the dirt, cyclo crossing in the gutter.”
The seven man break that slipped the peloton’s clutches before the long climb of Fox Creek road at 26km had the advantage of a tail wind for much of the day. But with their time cushion never getting above three minutes they were soon caught when the route changed direction and they lost their advantage.
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As winds played havoc with the bunch, Team RadioShack saw their chance and catapulted Lance Armstrong up the road with team mate Tomas Vaitkus. The pair built a lead of 23 seconds at one point, and panic set in as the American was only 20 seconds down on the lead. The splintering bunch eventually go organisd and brought them back, but it was only in the last five kilometres.
“There’s full respect for Lance, no one underestimates him, and Viatkus is a big strong boy and he was flying,” Stapleton continued. “They kind of burned everybody up to get him to the front and launch those guys.”
“If they’d had one or two more guys that would have been a real threat. It definitely caught everyone’s eye and there was a bit of panic in the peloton.”
With Greipel in the leader’s jersey, HTC Columbia have one more tough day in the saddle tomorrow before they can relax and start to think about overall victory. “I think they’re going to be tired tomorrow,” Stapelton admitted. “I think it was everybodies strategy to make us work all day, and that might work.”
“I think they’re going to come back strong, but tomorrow’s really hard, and if Caisse d’Epargne, RadioShack and others are really aggressive it’s going to be a really good day of racing.”
Team Sky’s Chris Froome piles on the pace as the peloton brings back the seven man group.
Lance Armstrong catches everyone by surprise with a late attack in the last 20 kilometres
Tour Down Under stage 4: Norwood – Goolwa, 149.5km
1. André Greipel (Ger) HTC-Columbia
2. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Katusha
3. Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank
4. Gert Steegmans (Bel) Team RadioShack
5. Manuel Cardoso (Por) Footon Servetto
6. Julian Dean (NZl) Garmin-Transitions
7. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma Lotto
8. Matthew Goss (Aus) Saxo Bank
9. Robert Forster (Ger) Milram
10. Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Francaise des Jeux
1. André Greipel (Ger) HTC-Columbia 13-23.57hours
2. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Katusha at 20 secs
3. Greg Henderson (NZl) Team Sky at 24 secs
4. Gert Steegmans (Bel) Team RadioShack at same time
5. Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank at 26 secs
6. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma Lotto
7. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at same time
8. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana at 29 secs
9. Robbie Hunter (Aus) Garmin Transitions at 30 secs
10. Baden Cooke (Aus) Saxo Bank at same time
Tour Down Under 2010: Race reports
Tour Down Under, stage three: Cardoso takes win ahead of Valverde
Tour Down Under, stage two: Greipel takes win number two
Tour Down Under, stage one: Greipel takes back sprint crown
Cancer Council Helpline Classic: Team Sky off to perfect start as Henderson wins
Tour Down Under 2010: Related links
Downing adapts to embrace new challenge
Tour Down Under 2010: Photo galleries