Australia’s Steele Von Hoff timed his sprint to perfection to win the fourth stage of the UCI Tour Down Under in the South Australian town of Mount Barker on Friday.
Von Hoff, riding for the local UniSA team, over-powered his rivals to win by a clear bike length from South African Daryl Impey (Orica GreenEDGE) and Dutchman Wouter Wippert (Drapac).
Recently crowned Australian road race champion Heinrich Haussler left his run just too late, finishing fourth for his IAM team as the rest of the peloton trailed in after a mass pile-up 150 metres from the line.
BMC’s Rohan Dennis kept the ochre leader’s jersey, seven seconds ahead of team-mate Cadel Evans with Dutchman Tom Dumoulin a further two seconds back.
Impey, who gained a time bonus in the intermediate sprint, jumped six places in the overall standings and is now 13 seconds behind Dennis.
The 144.5-kilometre stage began in the picturesque beach resort of Glenelg on a perfect day for racing.
Jack Bobridge, who led the event after the second stage, launched an early attack and dragged fellow Australian Michael Hepburn (Orica GreenEDGE) and Great Britain champion Peter Kennaugh (Sky) with him.
They stayed away long enough for Bobridge to take the King of the Mountain points but were caught by the peloton with 65 kilometres to go.
A second group launched another break, with Kazakhstan’s Ruslan Tleubayev (Astana), Russian Maxim Belkov (Katusha) and Belgium’s Pieter Serry (Etixx-Quick Step) getting out to a lead of a minute.
But the peloton never let the leaders get too far ahead and they were reeled in with eight kilometres to the finish.
Spanish pair Luis Leon Sanchez and Gorka Izaguirre then tried to surprise the peloton on a small incline, but Orica GreenEDGE led the chase and brought them back to the fold, paving the way for the sprinters.
Germany’s Marcel Kittel had dropped off the back of the peloton by that stage, leaving the race wide open and Von Hoff took full advantage.
He moved towards the front then swept past Impey and Wippert to take the stage win.
Von Hoff, who was cut from the world tour at the end of last year when his Garmin-Sharp team merged with Canondale, said the win would help him secure another contract.
“Jack Bobridge was looking after me all the way, saying ‘be patient, be patient, I know these roads like the back of my hand’,” he said.
“I just trusted him and he delivered me to the front in the final kilometre.
“The goal is to try and get up into the world tour, I’m just trying to do my best, and this helps.”
Saturday’s 151.5 kilometre fifth stage takes place on the infamous Willunga Hill, which the riders must ascend twice and which traditionally provides the best racing of the Tour Down Under. – Agence France-Presse