Stage 20
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23/01 - Stage 4 - Glenelg to Mount Barker - 144.5 km

Rohan Dennis took everybody by surprise when he timed a late attacked perfectly just as the front quartet started to fade on stage 3. BMC now sits 1st and 2nd overall, meaning it’s up to them to control the race on this tricky stage.

The route
Once again, the riders start climbing right from the beginning of the stage. However, the first and only categorized climb won’t come until after 44.2 km on the bike. Sellicks Hill is about 5 km long with an average gradient of 2.5 %. Upon reaching the top, the peloton continues south towards Myponga. From here, they set sails for Ashbourne where the first intermediate sprint of the day is located. As always, there are 3-2-1 bonus seconds up for grabs.

The second intermediate sprint comes in Macclesfield with just 27.1 km to go. The terrain is hilly but the gradients are not too frightening. From Meadows, the riders head towards Echunga. Here, the final struggle of the day starts. The ascent isn’t categorized but it still kicks up with 6-7 % for about a kilometer. If Marcel Kittel is still in the peloton at this time, we can expect teams like Movistar (Lobato) and GreenEdge (Impey) to set a furious pace in order to drop the big German. From the top of the hill, there are only 7.5 km to go.

The finish
The descent has a few uphill sections but it’s generally a very fast descent. With about 5 km left, the riders turn left into Flaxley Road. It’s an undulating road, constantly going up and down, making it difficult for dropped riders to regain contact with the peloton. There aren’t any corners on the last 2 km, but only the last 400 meters are completely flat.

The favorites
Given that the GC riders will have their eyes fixed on tomorrow’s uphill finish on Willunga Hill, they would gladly see a breakaway make it all the way today, which would give them an easy day in the saddle. The wind could be a factor but the most likely scenario is that it all ends in a sprint.

Usually, the number one favorite would be Marcel Kittel. However, Giant-Alpecin put in a big amount of work on stage 3 to set up Tom Dumoulin. If they want to place the young Dutchman on the overall podium, they have to save energy in order to make a similar performance on stage 5. Therefore, I doubt we will see them work much for Kittel today. If he survives the final climb, naturally, he’ll be the man to beat, but if he doesn’t, we might actually see Tom Dumoulin go for the sprint. He’s very fast on the line and he knows how important the bonus seconds are for the general classicization.

Juanjo Lobato flew past everybody on the final meters in Stirling on stage 2. These undulating routs suit him perfectly and he’s obviously in outstanding shape. Movistar knows this is a great opportunity for them to win another World Tour stage and I’m certain they will do whatever they can to set up Lobato today. A slightly uphill finish would have been best for the Spaniard but he has been working hard this winter to improve in the flat sprints as well. If Marcel Kittel is not in the peloton, Lobato has to be the prime pick for the stage win in Mount Barker.

On paper, this stage should be very good for riders like Heinrich Haussler, Giacomo Nizzolo, Gianni Meersman and youngster Niccolò Bonifazio. Lampre’s talented sprinter has been doing very well so far in the race. If he can hang onto the front group on the last hill, I wouldn’t be surprised if he made top3 on the stage.

The outsiders
GreenEdge and Daryl Impey lost valuable time in the GC on stage 3. If they want to place the South African on the overall podium, they need to get as many bonus seconds as possible. In Stirling, Impey proved to be in good shape, finishing 2nd after Lobato. This kind of terrain is good for Impey and I would imagine GreenEdge to try to set him up for the stage win. He might even have a go in the final, trying to solo away as he did in Vuelta al Pais Vasco a few years back.

Another rider who’s not afraid of attacking near the finishing line is Adam Hansen. The Australian won a stage in the Vuelta a España last year after a late attack. Lotto Soudal has no strong contenders for the GC. Hansen himself is their best chance and he’s probably not going to do better than top20 as it looks now. Therefore, a stage win on home soil would count for much more. It would also put him back in contention for a better position overall. The same goes for Nathan Haas and Luis León Sanchez who both missed out on the steep finish in Paracombe and need to gain back time as soon as possible.

If it comes down to a sprint, look to riders like Steele Von Hoff, Samuel Dumoulin and neo-pro Lorrenzo Manzin for some strong outsiders. In case an early breakaway makes it all the way, strong riders, out of the GC, like Thomas De Gendt and Dario Cataldo seem like good picks.

For live coverage of the stage, go to steephill.tv.

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