Caleb Ewan survived a sketchy run to the line and ripped past Sam Bennett at the last moment to score the win on stage four of the Tour Down Under.
The Australian, racing in Lotto-Soudal colours, kept out of trouble in the fast and frantic final 5km and safely made it to the finishing straight after a technical run in.
Ewan was followed the wheel of Sam Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and only launched his sprint inside 100metres, powering into the slip stream and carrying his momentum past the Irishman to notch a second victory in this year’s edition.
Bennett was disappointed to take second, while Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) took third.
Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) finished safely to hold onto his race lead, but Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) utilised time bonuses to narrow the advantage from six to three seconds.
How it happened
Stage four of the 2020 Tour Down Under was a return to centre stage for the sprinters, after a decisive GC stage on day three.
Kicking off the 152.8km from, starting from Norwood near central Adelaide to Murray Bridge south east of the city, the peloton faced a gently rising course for the opening 70km.
Riders then tackled the second category Mount Torrens climb (1.2km at 6.7 per cent), before the road turned down hill all the way to the line.
The finish was treacherous territory for the sprinters looking for victory and the GC contenders trying to stay safe, with a tricky narrow section in the final 2km and a tight corner onto the final straight.
With two immediate sprint points in the opening section of the race, the peloton stayed together as the GC teams looked for valuable bonus seconds. Daryl Impey took second at the first checkpoint, then won the second sprint to gain three seconds on Richie Porte, which could make the difference come the final Willunga Hill stage of the race.
After the sprint points were dealt with, five riders attacked and quickly established the day’s breakaway.
Joey Rosskofp (CCC Team) joined the break for a third day, with James Piccoli (Israel Start Up Nation), Laurens De Vreese (Astana), Jorge Arcas, and Sergio Samitier (Movistar) also making the escape.
The break built the gap up to almost three minutes, but Lotto-Soudal showed their intent and rode on the front for much of the day.
Inside 70km the bunch started to close down group one and with 25km still to race the catch was made, setting up the rapid final.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step took an uncharacteristic approach to the lead-out, putting numbers at the front from 5km to go and powering at the head of the peloton for the duration. But the tactic appeared to work, as Quick-Step safely made it through the narrow section as the road tightened inside 2km.
The run-in to the line caused chaos, with sprint teams scattered throughout the peloton as riders switched back and forth at the front.
Quick-Step’s Michael Mørkøv led into the final corner with 300m to race with Bennett on his wheel, putting him in perfect position for the sprint.
Bennett was the first rider to launch his sprint inside 200m, but he went too soon as Ewan let a slight gap go and sprinted into the slipstream, which allowed him to build more speed and use the acceleration to blast past Bennett late to take the win.
Tour Down Under 2020, stage four: Norwood to Murray Bridge (152.8km)
1. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal, in 3-29-08
2. Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
3. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE Team Emirates
4. Andrè Greipel (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation
5. Alberto Dainese (Ita) Sunweb
6. Martin Laas (Est) Bora-Hansgrohe
7. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling
8. Erik Baška (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
9. Marc Sarreau (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
10. Michael Mørkøv (Den) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, all at same time
General classification after stage four
1. Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo, in 13-39-32
2. Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott, at 3s
3. Robert Power (Aus) Sunweb, at 8s
4. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 11s
5. George Bennett (NZl) Jumbo-Visma, at 14s
6. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 15s
7. Simon Geschke (Ger) CCC Team
8. Rohan Dennis (Aus) Team Ineos
9. Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Ineos, all at same time
10. Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 23s