A relatively short 128.2km forms Stage 4 of 2018’s Tour Down Under, leaving Norwood and racing into the newly introduced finishing town of Uraidla after some serious climbing late on in the day. An interesting stage which may prove a closer fought affair than many first thought, the focus is still likely to be upon the traditionally decisive Wilunga Hill on Stage 5 to realistically crown this year’s winner overall. Expectations are that the puncheurs are likely to demonstrate a greater impact than the pure climbers late on here and a last gasp charge to the line could decide the honours.
Nathan Haas has been working hard already this week, picking up bonus seconds whenever possible and doing his utmost to steer clear of trouble by utilising his Katusha Alpecin teammates perfectly as protection. Additionally, there is enough talent around him to suggest he shall not be left alone during the crucial moments at the end of the day, potentially allowing him to lean on rivals to chase down his teammates in order to counter attack for the victory. With a quick turn of pace, Haas could capitalise from a reduced bunch kick and seize control of the race ahead of the pivotal penultimate day.
Richie Porte is the best climber at the race, but today will be more about staying with the pack and avoiding any significant time losses to major rivals. As ever, his goal is to produce another barn-storming ride up Wilunga Hill, but he will not refuse the opportunity to take the win today if it should arise. Entering Stage 5 as race leader would make Porte’s chances of overall victory even greater, as with less impetus to break the race up, he could simply sit on the wheels all day.
Jay McCarthy often finishes powerfully on stages such as these, and with such a strong team to support him, there is a great chance of him scoring the win on Stage 4. As one of the few contenders today who has already shown good form in 2018, his performance at the National Road Race Championships suggested he is already riding well and would be a threatening rider to allow a free ticket right into the final kilometre.
Diego Ulissi did not perform as strongly as anticipated yesterday, though still deserves a serious mention here on favourable terrain once again for the Italian. Though the last climb is a great springboard to launch his attack upon, the downhill run into town is not favourable really, but his capabilities in a reduced sprint could still deliver him victory if riding smart on the day.
A strong field of further candidates all have the potential to win in Uraidla: Rui Costa, Enric Mas, Peter Sagan, Tom Jelte-Slagter, Daryl Impey and Peter Kennaugh.
1st Nathan Haas 2nd Jay McCarthy 3rd Richie Porte