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Tour Down Under stage 4: Meyer wins another one for the boys

Stage 4 – Norwood to Strathalbyn, 124km

Cameron Meyer of the Garmin-Cervélo team made it four different winners from four different teams – all under the age of 25 – in four stages as the day’s breakaway survived to finish in Strathalbyn, turning the general classification on its head ahead of tomorrow’s decisive stage to Willunga.

The two-time Australian national time trial champion, triple world track champion and triple Commonwealth gold medalist outsprinted Vaconsoleil‘s Thomas de Gendt in a two-up sprint to claim his first major win as a pro.

Cameron Meyer wins stage 4 after the peloton failed to catch the breakaway (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

At last, a break succeeds

Meyer and De Gendt were part of the day’s six-man breakaway, which finally escaped after 32km. Originally, it appeared they would be caught by the peloton as their lead was whittled down to just 45 seconds with 38km to go. However, a combination of the group’s effort on the largely downhill run-in, strong headwinds and a lack of organisation within the bunch allowed four of them – Meyer, De Gendt, Rabobank‘s Laurens ten Dam and Meyer’s teammate Matthew Wilson – to maintain a buffer right through to the end.

On a testing uphill finish in the last 150 metres, De Gendt was the first of the surviving four to open up the sprint. Only Meyer was able to respond, and he was able to reel in De Gendt and pull comfortably ahead of him to claim the stage win. Overnight leader Matthew Goss (HTC-Highroad) led the pack home 24 seconds later, and consequently fell back to third overall behind Meyer and ten Dam, with the former taking over the ochre jersey with an advantage of 10 seconds over ten Dam and 12 over Goss.

Remarkably, all four stage winners so far are aged under 25: Goss is 24, stage two winner Ben Swift 23, yesterday’s victor Michael Matthews 20 and Meyer is 23.

Why did it succeed?

An ecstatic Meyer explained how he and his fellow escapees had held a bit in reserve before putting in a big second effort in the final 30km to hold the peloton at bay:

We worked really well together – it’s a credit to the break. We definitely talked among ourselves the whole time, we kept checks on the breakaway times and how far we were ahead, so in the end … we really had to play it cool, really wait.

The peloton can bring it back whenever they want so we waited until about 20-30km to go and then we really hit the gas. When we went, we went strong.

Behind them, HTC team were largely left to drive the chase themselves on behalf of Goss, with help from other teams coming too late to bridge the gap, despite the incentive of both a stage win and the time bonuses which are critical at the top of the congested overall standings. He said a combination of misjudgment and the lack of support from other teams was to blame for the break’s success in surviving to the end:

Everyone just misjudged it at the finish a bit and it was all downhill from there. We knew that we had to catch them before the top but we just didn’t ride fast enough. I don’t think we had enough support from the other teams. You know, we’re not the only ones who have goals for the overall, but unfortunately today we lost time to some of those guys at the front and lost the jersey. Hopefully we’ll just get it back tomorrow.

He added:

I have a super strong team here and they have been supportive all week, and it will be the same for the next few days. With those guys, we will manage to get the jersey back.

Now what?

It will take a big team effort by HTC-Highroad if Goss is to claw back the 12-second gap to Meyer, although it is by no means insurmountable. Tomorrow’s stage to Willunga features two short, sharp ascents of Old Willunga Hill. It is three kilometres in length at an average gradient of about 7.5% – a third-category in Grand Tour terms – but with the climbs coming so close to the finish we are bound to see some big attacks from anyone harbouring aspirations for either the overall win or individual stage glory, resulting in small but potentially significant time gaps.

With two days left, it is still all to play for.

Tour Down Under highlights are being shown every evening on Sky Sports, with live coverage of stages five and six in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday morning.

Stage 4 result:

1. Cameron Meyer (Garmin-Cervélo) 2:57:55

2. Thomas de Gendt (Vaconsoleil-DCM) same time

3. Laurens ten Dam (Rabobank) +0:03

4. Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Cervélo) +0:10

5. Matthew Goss (HTC-Highroad) +0:24

General classification:

1. Cameron Meyer (Garmin-Cervélo) 12:54:30

2. Laurens ten Dam (Rabobank) +0:10

3. Matthew Goss (HTC-Highroad) +0:12

4. Robbie McEwen (RadioShack) +0:15

5. André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +0:16

Tour Down Under posts

Tour Down Under preview

Tour Down Under stage 1: Goss beats Greipel, Cavendish sits tight

Tour Down Under stage 2: Swift by name, swift by nature

Tour Down Under stage 3: Matthews wins, Greipel falls short again

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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