It’s going to be a nail-biting finish in Adelaide for the final stage of the Tour Down Under today,
PIC BY TOURDOWNUNDER Swiss rider Martin Elmiger (AG2R Prevoyance) has stolen the race lead in the 2007 Tour Down Under after claiming a two second bonus by finishing third on today’s 147 kilometre fourth stage out and back from Willunga. He is now one second ahead of overnight leader Karl Menzies (UniSA Australia) with two more riders within ten seconds of the lead, promising a spectacular battle in Sunday’s final stage. “It means that the final will be very close,” Elmiger told Procycling at the finish. “We’ll see what happens in the sprints tomorrow. On the climb today, I had Gerrans and Krivtsov with me, going very hard, and I thought we’d done enough to win it, but Menzies came back again. It was always my goal to make up the seconds today, but in the end it came down to the finishing sprint. “But I’ve got a good team here; Gerrans was incredible today. It’s my first time here, and it would be great to have had better weather the last couple of days, but I’m from Switzerland, so it’s OK; I’m used to snow. And [this situation] is good for the race, as normally by this point you already know the winner. We’ll see, but I’m confident now … I can sprint well, like Menzies. I haven’t had a win for a while now, and, if I win, it will be my first stage race victory.” Menzies is renowned for his explosive sprint and was disappointed he wasn’t able to counter Elmiger’s today. “It was a bit of a hectic sprint, there were a few guys doing some stupid stuff at the finish,” said Menzies. “He slipped through there, I don’t know. “It wasn’t me, it was the team…I struggled up there, but they did all the work today and set me up,” said Menzies noting the efforts of Rob McLachlan and Chris Jongewaard to get him back up with the contenders in the final kilometres after he and Team CSC’s top ranked pair failed to get in the front group on the climb up Old Willunga Hill. “It’s going to be a cracker day tomorrow, that’s for sure.” “It isn’t over yet, it’s very winnable – it’s not going to be easy, nothing ever is, but we have the firepower,” said UniSA team manager Dave Sanders recalling the opening stage of the Tour into Tanunda. “Elmiger was incredulous after the stage saying to Karl (Menzies) – ‘You sprinted for 600m!’ – and Karl said ‘Yep I can do that’. “Now he’ll just have to do it again tomorrow.” Belgian victor Stage four honours went to Belgian Pieter Ghyllebert (Chocolade Jacques) who gave the Chocolade Jacques team it’s second stage win of the tour sprinting clear of a group of 24 riders to cross the finish in a time of 3h25m38s. Uzbekistan rider Sergey Lagutin (Navigators Insurance) was second and Elmiger pipped South Australian Stuart O’Grady (Team CSC) for third place. “Now I have my team-mate (Jens Renders) who goes 2km from the finish with me on his wheel, he goes to 300m and then I attack and nobody came over (the top) of me,” said Ghyllebert who was second behind his team mate Steven Caethoven on stage two into Hahndorf. “Two days ago I was also very strong and maybe if I went from 600m by myself I would normally win, but it was the plan for my team-mate to win. “Today it was my turn,” said Ghyllebert whose father Johan was one of the finest cyclo-cross cyclists of his generation. “For our team it’s fantastic we can come here and to win two stages.” Another wet one The weather was wet and windy for most of the stage which began with numerous early attacks until things settled down when a group of 13 riders, none a threat to the top ten ranked overall, established a lead. An estimated 70,000 crowded into vantage points along the route as the riders battled strong crosswinds and intermittent downpours of rain. 1997 World Champion, Frenchman Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Telecom) was in the lead group, with the aim of taking over the lead in the SA Lotteries Sprint classification and picked up four points for second place at the first intermediate sprint at Snapper Point (58.8km) behind Dutchman Hans Dekkers (Agritubel) with Australian Matt Wilson (Unibet.com) third. For the next 50 kilometres the lead group of 13 maintained an advantage of between two and three minutes as the peloton bided its time waiting for the only climb of the day up Old Willunga Hill. Along the way Brochard achieved his aim of the sprint classification lead winning the second intermediate sprint on the third pass through Snapper Point (100.7km). Dekkers crossed second and New Zealand mountain biker, Clinton Avery, was third. With the climb looming the peloton roared into life and started the chase in earnest. The pressure was on up Old Willunga Hill, where thousands braved the rain to cheer on the riders. Three of the riders from the lead group, Heath Blackgrove (NZL), Belgian Glenn D’Hollander (Chocolade Jacques), and Frenchman Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Telecom) were one, two, three over the summit, but the main contenders were not far behind. On the descent a group formed with notable absentees being the race leader Karl Menzies, third ranked Lars Bak (Team CSC) and his team mate Luke Roberts who was sitting in sixth place overall at the start of the day. That prompted an aggressive chase by both CSC and UniSA Australia who managed to bring their top riders back to the front before the finish line. The SA Lotteries Sprint leader is now Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Telecom) with the lead in the ‘A Brilliant Blend’ King of the Mountain competition still with Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R-Prevoyance). Simon Clarke (SouthAustralia.com-AIS) maintains his lead in the ‘Share the Road’ Best Young Rider classification and the ‘Century 21’ Most Aggressive Rider for Stage Four was Belgian Glenn D’Hollander (Chocolade Jacques). SouthAustralia.com-AIS has increased its lead in the Bartercard Teams Classification to be 3mnin35sec ahead with one stage remaining. The final race of the three race UniSA Women’s Criterium Series was contested today at Snapper Point and won by Victorian Jenny MacPherson ahead of Tasmanian Belinda Goss and Victorian Peta Mullens. MacPherson’s win gave her the overall series crown for the third straight year. Sunday will see the 107 remaining riders contest the final stage of the 2007 Tour Down Under on the 90 kilometre Adelaide City Council circuit. All eyes will be on the start finish line in King William Rd where time bonuses (3, 2 & 1 second) will be up for grabs in the intermediate sprints at the end of laps eight and 12. The final sprint at the end of lap 20 offers six, four and two seconds to the top three across the line. Climbing points will also be up for grabs on Montefiore Hill on laps ten and 15 where Dumoulin will be out to protect his 12 point lead in the King of the Mountain Classification. Results 1 Pieter Ghyllebert (Bel, Chocolade Jacques) 3:25:38 2 Sergey Lagutin (Uzb, Navigators) 3 Martin Elmiger (Swi, AG2r Prvoyance) 4 Stuart O’Grady (Aus, Team CSC) 5 Fabrizio Guidi (Ita, Barloworld) 6 Sebastian Siedler (Ger, Team Milram) 7 Hilton Clarke (Aus, Navigators) 8 Lars Bak (Den, Team CSC) 9 Andy Flickinger (Fra, Bouygues Telecom) 10 Elia Rigotto (Ita, Team Milram) General classification after stage 4 1 Martin Elmiger (Swi, AG2r Prvoyance) 14:02:15 2 Karl Menzies (Aus, Australia – UniSA) 0:00:01 3 Lars Bak (Den, Team CSC) 0:00:08 4 Matthew Lloyd (Aus, Predictor – Lotto) 0:00:10 5 Gustav Larsson (Swe, Unibet.com) 0:00:18 6 Luke Roberts (Aus, Team CSC) 0:00:47 7 Gene Bates (Aus, SouthAustralia.com-AIS) 8 Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita, Barloworld) 0:00:52 9 Yannick Talabardon (Fra, Crdit Agricole) 10 Simon Clarke (Aus, SouthAustralia.com-AIS) 0:01:05 More information: www.tourdownunder.com.au Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.