Though Caleb Ewan lost contact with his leadout train as expected during yesterday’s finale, he took full advantage of Peter Sagan’s poor decision making which forced the World Champion to expend further energy navigating his way to the front; a move ultimately handing victory to the rival Australian. Stage 4 is a tricky prospect which may be allowed to fall into the hands of the breakaway, but if conditions are not too draining for the peloton, teams focused on forcing a bunch kick will have a great chance of doing precisely that. A total of 149.5km separates Norwood from Campbelltown, a large loop which traces around the Adelaide suburbs and provides little in gruelling terrain despite being the second longest day in the saddle at 2017’s Tour Down Under. The gradual decline down to the finish in Campbelltown should lend itself well to chasing down the day’s breakaway, eventually concluding with a sprint against a gradual drag up to the line.
Peter Sagan looked well placed in the final moments of Stage 3 to take victory ahead of the much faster Caleb Ewan, but his decision to go the long way around traffic meant he spent more time in the wind and thus found his legs lacking once Ewan stepped it up a gear. Today offers a great chance to remedy the previous day’s defeat, the longer stage potentially a bonus for Sagan is paired with a small drag to the line which can make it a contest of power instead of aerodynamics. There is a chance that Bora-Hansgrohe will instead ride for Sam Bennett, the Irishman a much faster prospect to challenge Caleb Ewan in a sprint, while the attributes of Stage 4 and its finale improve his odds yet further still if backed by his team.
Caleb Ewan is in indomitable form at his home stage race, possessing far superior speed to his rivals at the first major race of the season and is supported by a well organised leadout train. Though his immense pace and aerodynamic skills suggest Ewan is a thoroughbred sprinter, the Australian does have form when it comes to winning against a gradient similar to today’s. Assuming Orica-SCOTT deliver him into the ideal position, it is tough to argue against Ewan picking up another win at this year’s Tour Down Under.
Niccolo Bonifazio performed well on the previous day as anticipated and will now be looking to build upon this with another chance of a bunch kick at the end of Stage 4. The Italian is underrated at World Tour level despite some fantastic performances during the last two seasons, demonstrating how effective his blend of high speed and positional awareness can outperform the bigger names which surround him. He is likely to surf the wheels in the latter moments of today, but should have another convincing chance of finishing upon the podium.
Danny van Poppel is still waiting for his leadout train to really click into place at this race, though yesterday displayed encouraging signs that pieces are beginning to fall where they are needed at last. With the firepower of Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe at his disposal, van Poppel has enough to drag him into contention, but the loss of Owain Doull does make it a greater task to truly challenge for the win.
As has come to be expected at the Tour Down Under, other riders worth looking out for in Stage 4’s potential sprint finish are Nikias Arndt, Ben Swift and Baptiste Planckaert
1st Peter Sagan 2nd Caleb Ewan 3rd Niccolo Bonifazio