The 27-year-old won the bunch sprint from Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) and Wouter Wippert (Drapac) to clock the composite UniSA-Australia national team’s second victory of the race thus far. A crash in the home straight did not heavily impact on the main contenders but left many sore.
“For this race, UniSA and also the Pro Conti team Drapac, we’re always getting crushed whenever we try to form our trains and go up the front,” von Hoff said. “We’re definitely putting on a display that we’re here and we’re staying.”
The victory is a step in the right direction for the Australian criterium champion, who has ambitions to return to the WorldTour. Von Hoff competed with Garmin last season but was not offered a contract in its merge with Cannondale.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to come off with a WorldTour win and I just wish that it was on a team that I could contribute the points to,” he said. “NFTO will be absolutely pumped for me winning this stage so I’m really happy to be with them this year. They’re right behind me to try and get back up to WorldTour.”
Impey’s performance saw him move into the top five of the overall classification, which Rohan Dennis still leads from BMC team-mate Cadel Evans, ahead of tomorrow’s penultimate stage to Old Willunga that should decide the tour champion. Richie Porte is still in the hunt for Team Sky sitting fifth overall and 15 seconds adrift of the leader.
The peloton left Glenelg under sunny skies with a rolling 144.5km trek ahead of it. Peter Kennaugh (Sky), Jack Bobridge (UniSA-Australia), Michael Hepburn (Orica-GreenEdge) and Cedric Pineau (FDJ) escaped some 26km into the race after a fast start in which Lawson Craddock (Giant-Alpecin) crashed and was taken to hospital for observation.
Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin) tried to bridge to the leaders after an earlier move but, as then, punctured and was unsuccessful. Haas’s day got worse with the Australian as well as Kenny De Haes (Lotto Soudal) amongst those sporting shredded kit and abrasions past the finish line.
The break achieved a maximum time advantage of two minutes and 20 seconds with BMC controlling the pace at the front of the bunch. Tour title contenders Sky and Orica-GreenEdge were able to relax more so than previous days with a rider each up front. Bobridge led the escapees over the mountain prime and sat-up shortly afterwards, the polka dot jersey secure again, with the remnants of the front group reeled-in at the halfway point.
A new break including Ruslan Tleubayev (Astana), Maxim Belkov (Katusha) and Pieter Serry (Etixx-Quick Step) countered not long after but were reeled in as Movistar led a furious chase within the final 25km, which saw the peloton split and marquee sprinter Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) out back with a small group.
Tour Down Under 2015, stage four: Glenelg to Mount Barker, 144.5km
1. Steele von Hoff (Aus) UniSA-Australia 3-24-28
2. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge
3. Wouter Wippert (Ned) Drapac
4. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM
5. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
6. Niccolò Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-Merida
7. Rudiger Selig (Ger) Katusha
8. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Etixx-Quick-Step
9. Eugenio Alafaci (Ita) Trek
10. Koen de Kort (Ned) Giant-Alpecin
Overall classification after stage four
1. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC 13-41-34
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 7 secs
3. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin at 9 secs
4. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge at 13 secs
5. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky at 15 secs
6. Michael Rogers (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo
7. Jack Haig (Aus) UniSA-Australia
8. Maxime Bouet (Fra) Etixx-Quick-Step
9. Rubén Fernandez (Spa) Movistar
10. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale