HTC-Highroad's Matthew Goss reclaimed the leader's ochre jersey at the Tour Down Under as fellow Australian Michael Matthews romped to victory on stage three on Thursday.
Goss started the 129-kilometre (80-mile) stage from Unley to Stirling in the Adelaide Hills on the same time as but behind overnight leader and Australian compatriot Robbie McEwen of RadioShack.
And despite suffering a puncture 10 km from the finish line, the Tasmanian battled 40 degree Celsius (101 Fahrenheit) temperatures and a tough circuit to regain the lead he took after winning stage one on Tuesday.
"I only just got back at the bottom of the climb with about 4km to go so it was a very hard way to get the jersey back but I'm very happy to be in it now," said Goss, who now leads defending champion Andre Greipel by two seconds.
A four-man breakaway entertained the thousands of fans who had turned up along the roads of a hilly 21 km circuit which the peloton raced three times in the finale. However, their lead evaporated shortly after the start to the final lap.
A number of attacks came late in the race, including a futile effort from Australian stage race hopeful Richie Porte, before a 50-strong bunch reformed in time for a mass sprint at the finish.
Matthews, who is in his first year with the Dutch Rabobank outfit, showed more of the same sprint prowess that won him the under-23 title at the world road race championships in October.
It is the 20-year-old's second win of the season, following his victory in stage two of the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic.
Nicknamed "Bling" for his penchant for tattoos and earrings, Matthews was quick to thank Tom Leezer and the other teammates who gave him support throughout the day.
"I was like 50th wheel with 4km to go and then Tom (Leezer) put me in perfect position for the sprint," said Matthews. "It's one of the most difficult races (stages) in this tour so it's really great to win this one and thanks to my team."
Matthews feared being pipped at the finish line by Goss, who won the pre-race criterium and the first stage thanks to unbeatable sprint finishes.
However the HTC-Highroad all-rounder had nothing left when it came to challenging on the home straight.
"When he (Matthews) went there was no way I was going to keep up with him over the last 100 metres, I was already gone," added Goss.
A second Australian win in three days - Britain's Ben Swift of Team Sky won stage two - means two-time champion Greipel remains winless so far.
The German sprinter quit HTC-Highroad at the end of last year, joining Omega-Pharma in a bid to relaunch his career. Despite admitting the finish did not suit him, Greipel was left frustrated.
"I wanted to sprint from 250 metres to go, but the lead-out guys (in other teams) boxed me in on the barriers and I couldn't pass them," said Greipel.
Britain's Mark Cavendish, also of HTC-Highroad, began trailing early into the final lap of the circuit and was happy to finish having suffered cuts and abrasions in a spectacular crash on Wednesday.
Friday's fourth stage is a 124 km ride over undulating terrain from Norwood to Strathalbyn.
© AFP 2011
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