Sprinters should be gifted another opportunity for victory at this year’s Tour Down Under on this 144km route from Glenelg to Victor Harbor. The lumpy nature of Stage 3 is evident when glancing at the profile, likely to be combined with tricky crosswinds, making this favourable for the classics styled strongman to snatch the day’s honours. Having negotiated the only categorised climb of the day, the peloton will progress onwards to begin the first of four 12.9km laps which comprise the finale in Victor Harbor. A technically demanding run into the finish, with a couple of tight corners, will make having an organised leadout train at the front of affairs a great advantage to guide a sprinter safely into the finishing straight. It does look like a day for a sprint of sorts, but the stresses of the last kilometre may be enough to swing the odds in the favour of some of the more experienced and canny riders who relish these hectic contests at the expense of the thoroughbred fast men.
Peter Sagan has the skills required to perform well today, but there is a question mark as to whether his team Bora-Hansgrohe shall aim to protect him or sprinter Sam Bennett during Stage 3. The former’s status as World Champion makes him an obvious man to watch in the sprints, thus making it difficult to really catch opponents off guard when it matters most, though the technical finale today is likely to play into Sagan’s hands and limit this factor somewhat. If the route fails to prove as tough as expected, the wind perhaps not coming into play for example, then Bennett will be the better option for Bora-Hansgrohe to try and capture victory at Victor Harbor.
Caleb Ewan enters the day as an awkward contender to estimate, the fastest man in the race is rarely a fan of disorganised finishes and can become lost as rivals find the best lines to follow. ORICA-Scott are an efficient outfit when it comes to leading their talented young Australian out and may be able to provide the guidance which offers him a clear run at the finish line where it is tough to see anyone else other than Ewan emerging victorious.
Niccolo Bonifazio may have arrived at this year’s Tour Down Under without a strong team to support him in the sprints, but Stage 3’s technical demands offer him a level playing field where he can catch the faster riders napping. Bonifazio will look to remain hidden by the stronger trains of his rivals, before bursting through the pack from a good position after exiting the final tight corner.
Danny van Poppel has perhaps surprised a few people with his strong form already at the race, marking him out as one of the fastest riders behind Caleb Ewan currently. Losing teammate Owain Doull on the eve of the race has reduced the firepower of the Sky leadout train, but he still turned in a great performance on Stage 1 and can rely on his sharp acceleration to make the most of this tricky run into home.
Other contenders with a chance of Stage 3 honours are Nikias Arndt, Edward Theuns, Marko Kump and Sean De Bie.
1st Peter Sagan 2nd Danny van Poppel 3rd Niccolo Bonifazio