The battle for general classification at the Tour Down Under remained on a knife-edge heading into the fourth day.
Surprise leader Patrick Bevin (CCC Team) held just one second over Slovakian rockstar Peter Sagan (Bora – Hansgrohe), who had closed the gap by winning a frantic downhill sprint on stage three.
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While Sagan was unlikely to be a threat for the overall win heading into the final days, Bevin still had plenty of genuine contenders at his back.
Astana’s Luis León Sánchez was just nine seconds down riding into stage four, 2018 race winner Daryl Impey (Mitchelton – Scott) was at 11 seconds, and major GC threats Richie Porte (Trek – Segafredo), George Bennett (Jumbo – Visma), Michael Woods (EF Education First) and Wout Poels (Team Sky) were all just 15 seconds back.
Stage four was set to be a thrilling test over a looping 129km route from Unley to Campbelltown.
With 2,400 metres of climbing spread across the course, the decisive moment was expected in the final 10km as the peloton powered over the Corkscrew Road climb – just over 2km at eight per cent average – before a rapid descent to the line.
Stage three went to Sagan, who took his first victory of the 2019 season after a testing day in the Adelaide Hills.
In an almost-carbon copy of the same stage last year, Sagan mixed it with puncheurs and sprinters to beat Sánchez and Impey to the line.
Catch up on the best bits from stage four or you can read everything that happened in our race report.
The 2019 Tour Down Under started on Tuesday (January 14) and ends on Sunday (January 20) atop the now famous Willunga Hill.
Thanks to the men’s race being at the very start of the international cycling calendar, the Tour Down Under always enjoys considerable attention from cycling fans across the world, eager to see a bit of bike racing after a few fallow months.
Maybe as a result of those few months without cycling, but the racing always seems entertaining too, and although some parts of the peloton use it as a chance to cruise around and enjoy some good weather, at the front the racing is fierce as riders try to pick up crucial WorldTour points early in the year.