Travis McCabe (UnitedHealthcare) took one of the biggest victories of his career by winning stage three of the Herald Sun Tour as a two large crashes held up the majority of the field.
McCabe was one of only about 15 riders who escaped the crashes, which occurred at 3.5km and 1.5km to go and took down many sprinters including Team Sky's Danny Van Poppel, as well as Chris Froome and overall leader Damien Howson (Orica-Scott).
That meant a reduced field of sprinters to contest the sprint into the Mitchelton Winery, but McCabe still had to overcome a number of WorldTour riders, out-sprinting the Australian duo of Mitchell Docker (Orica-Scott) and Leigh Howard (Aqua Blue Sport) into second an third respectively, with stage two winner Luke Rowe (Team Sky) in fourth.
Speaking after the stage, McCabe praised the work of his team-mates to keep in a good position throughout the final stages of the race, making sure that he avoided the crashes that put so many other riders out of contention.
"From the last 20 km the team took great care of me," McCabe explained
"Janier [Acevedo] took the last turn on the big road, putting Tanner [Putt] and Lachlan [Norris] in position to give me the right wheels to finish in the narrow last kilometre. Then I jumped at 250 m to go, and I did not see anyone coming near me."
All those caught up in the crashes were given the same stage time at McCabe, meaning that Damien Howson maintains his 38-second lead over Jai Hindley (Korda Menthe Real Estate Australia) with Kenny Elissonde (Team Sky) third at 53 seconds.
For Howson, this was a stage that he was pleased to see the back of.
"Another nervous day," Howson said. "The sprinters had their chance today and of course everyone was fighting and jostling for position in the final five kilometres. It made for some dangerous and exciting racing but I am happy to get through unscathed."
If Howson made it through the stage unscathed, there were plenty of riders coming across the line with nasty injuries following the two crashes in the finale, with Nathan Earle (Australia) describing the chaotic finale."
"It was carnage. It was a big crash," Earle told the Herald Sun newspaper.
"There was bottles bursting, tyres exploding bursting and carbon screeching along the road. Because it was such a tight and dangerous finish there was a big fight for position."
All of the riders will be hoping for a safer final stage on Sunday, although with bad weather forecast that may not be the case.
Probably the toughest stage of the race, stage four is four laps of a 30km circuit around the town of Kinglake, with each circuit featuring a 9km climb to the finish line.
Jayco Herald Sun Tour 2017, stage three: Benalla to Mitchelton Bay Winery, 167.7km
1. Travis McCabe (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, in 3-46-00
2. Mitchell Docker (Aus) Orica-Scott
3. Leigh Howard (Aus) Aqua Blue Sport
4. Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky
5. Aleksei Tcatevich (Rus) Gazprom–RusVelo
6. Benjamin Hill (Aus) Attaque Team Gusto
7. Ivan Savitckii (Rus) Gazprom–RusVelo
8. Jesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij
9. Jesse Kerrison (Aus) IsoWhey Sports SwissWellness
10. Brad Evans (NZl) Drapac–Pat's Veg Holistic Development Team, all same time
12. Ian Bibby (GBr) JLT-Condor, at same time
64. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at same time
General classification after stage three
1. Damien Howson (Aus) Orica-Scott, in 8-46-12
2. Jai Hindley (Aus) Korda Menthe Real Estate-Australia, at 38 secs
3. Kenny Elissonde (Fra) Team Sky, at 53 secs
4. Cameron Meyer (Aus) Korda Menthe Real Estate-Australia, at 1-08
5. Michael Storer (Aus) Korda Menthe Real Estate-Australia, at 1-10
6. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 1-12
7. Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Korda Menthe Real Estate-Australia, at 1-13
8. Nathan Earle (Aus) Korda Menthe Real Estate-Australia, at 1-15
9. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-Scott, at 1-15
10. Timothy Roe (Aus) IsoWhey Sports-Swiss Wellness, at 1-17
11. Ian Bibby (GBr) JLT-Condor, at 1-26
13. Edmund Bradbury (GBr) JLT-Condor, at 1-35
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