Stage 3 leaves Glenelg and makes its way south to the finish at Victor Harbor 120.5km later, featuring the notable climb of Pennys Hill Road (2.8km avg. 7.6%) to test the bunch early on in the day, during what is anticipated to be a scorching afternoon beneath the Australian sun; hence the foreshortened stage compared to the race book’s 146.5km. The final few kilometres of the day level out, but retain a couple of technical bends after the flamme rouge, making positioning vital here to contest the likely sprint.
Caleb Ewan impressed yesterday when winning on Stage 2, restoring faith in his abilities and reminding his teammates why he is always worth backing for the honours at the Tour Down Under. Today is within his capabilities once again, while a reduction in distance and being one of the few contenders familiar with racing in this heat, means he is the clear favourite to win in Victor Harbor.
Elia Viviani is perhaps the only rider capable of matching Ewan’s explosive sprints, which he often leaves quite late, using acceleration instead of max speed to take wins. The Italian is not adverse to surfing the wheels if required, though does now possess a more proficient leadout train at his disposal and could instead find himself placed well in order to fight for the victory. Additionally, the day’s climbing is unlikely to fatigue Viviani a great deal compared to some of the heavier sprinters in contention on Stage 3.
André Greipel certainly dislikes technical stage finishes, but with such brilliant weather at hand and nothing to worry about in terms of rain or slippery roads, it would be foolish to rule him out entirely. Though the turns do come late, the roads are relatively wide, which means elbow-to-elbow riding is less likely when exiting these decisive bends. They do however prevent him from unleashing his longer sprint in the usual fashion, meaning he may suffer at the hands of more explosive finishers such as Ewan or Viviani.
Peter Sagan was unable to prove the deciding factor yesterday and help his teammate Jay McCarthy to the stage victory, but could be handed leadership back on Stage 3’s preferable finale. His early season top speed has been impressive, and if the sprint does not really erupt until 200m from the line, then there is every chance the reigning world champion shall take his first win with the rainbow bands in 2018.
Phil Bauhaus always deserves a mention, continually closing the gap to the bigger name sprinters and proving to be a growing danger to the upper echelons who so often decide the stage wins amongst themselves. A solid final kilometre in terms of positioning will be key, but if ridden well, he might be able to catch the rest slow to react while they watch one another.
1st Caleb Ewan 2nd Elia Viviani 3rd Peter Sagan