Two-time and defending champion Daryl Impey has moved to within three seconds of the race lead on the fourth stage of the Santos Tour Down Under.
With a clear and typical strategy, Mitchelton-SCOTT controlled the first 40km of racing in attempt to set Impey up for intermediate bonus seconds and the South African champion managed three to halve his deficit to ochre jersey wearer Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo).
There were no surprises when Mitchelton-SCOTT went straight to the front of the bunch after the flag dropped and controlled any attempted attacks ahead of the intermediate sprints.
They carried on with those efforts for the first 40km of racing, alongside Team Ineos and Team Sunweb, and managed to set Impey up for third in the first sprint and second place in the second sprint, both won by Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) who is targeting the overall sprint jersey.
The bonuses move Impey from six seconds behind Porte to just three seconds, with two stages remaining.
Settling in for the sprint:
With the intermediates contended, racing calmed and a breakaway of five riders formed.
They were controlled by the sprint teams, and whilst the threat of crosswinds saw an increase of speed heading towards the final 50km of racing, the action never really kicked off and the bunch rolled towards a final sprint in Murray Bridge.
Nervousness saw a number of smaller crashes in the final 10km, but Mitchelton-SCOTT navigated the final kilometres safely with Impey the top finisher in 17th.
“We will go for everything we can. We know it’s going to be hard to beat Richie on Sunday, we will need a buffer to try to win the race overall, so any chance we can get, we are going to go for it and we did that today.
“Unfortunately we didn’t walk away with six seconds, we only got three, but Trek have Mads (Pedersen) sprinting and Philipsen is also going for the sprint jersey so it makes it quite complicated.
“We will keep going for it, our tactics don’t change. We will give it all until Sunday and what will be, will be.”
Matt White – Head Sport Director:
“We went out there looking for bonuses seconds. Unfortunately we came up head-to-head with some of the sprinters but the boys did well. We came up with three seconds out of a maximum of six and our plan doesn’t change tomorrow.
“There’s 16seconds up for grabs and we’d like to go into the last day in the leader’s jersey.”
2020 Tour Down Under – Stage 4 Results:
1. Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) 3:29:08
2. Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep) ST
3. Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) ST
17. Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST
2020 Tour Down Under – General Classification after Stage 4:
1. Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) 13:39:32
2. Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:03
3. Robert Power (Team Sunweb) +0:08