As the Tour Down Under really began to hot up, so did the weather. With temperatures predicted to exceed forty degrees celsius, the race organisers made the decision to shorten stage 3 of the race to a little more than 120km under the UCI’s Extreme Weather Protocol. While the stage would be reduced, this just meant the riders had to fit all the excitement into a shorter day. The BORA-hansgrohe riders worked hard to bring UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, into position, who pushed through a tight finale to take fifth position in the sprint, while Jay McCarthy took every opportunity to find seconds in the GC race.
Making the safety of the riders their top priority, the race’s organisers made the decision to shorten the distance of today’s stage due to concerns about the heat. While the race would still start in Glenelg and finish in Victor Harbor, the stage would make just one pass of the final circuit, as opposed to the scheduled three. The now 120.5km stage would still challenge riders though – not only because of the heat. High winds would batter riders, and the day’s categorised climb, Pennys Hill Road, would feel like hitting a wall, with its 7.6% gradient. A flat finish meant the sprinters would again be battling it out – if they hadn’t suffered too much from the stage’s demands.
The Team Tactics
When there’s a possible sprint on the cards, all eyes turn to the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, and while the flat finale meant there was every chance the Slovak rider would be aiming to contest the win, with the race nearing its halfway point, the race for the GC was well and truly on as well. The Australian, Jay McCarthy, would be looking to strengthen his position in the overall standings, having started the day in fourth spot and with some tough stages to come.
Undeterred by the high temperatures, the break went off early again, and quickly put some distance on the peloton. The escapees’ advantage pushed on past five minutes, at which point the peloton took action to make sure the break didn’t spoil the sprinters’ chance for victory – particularly important on a stage where the conditions could make the day’s outcome much more unpredictable. The increase in pace, as well as some attacks from the peloton for time bonuses, brought the gap down steadily, made easier by one of the two-man break dropping off. The catch made at 8km, the peloton looked on to the finale. High speeds strung out the peloton, and the course layout meant the finish was hard to judge. While Peter pushed hard in the sprint, he found himself boxed in, but worked hard to make the space to finish the day in fifth position.
From the Finish Line
“It was an extremely hot day and a fast stage because of the tailwind. We worked to help Jay get bonus seconds in the intermediate sprint. He picked up one, so that was good, but the final sprint didn’t go the way we wanted. We stayed safe today and we will try our chances again in the following stages.” – Peter Sagan
“It was a very hot day, it is nice the organisation came to us and decided to cut some of the laps and shorten the stage. I was able to get another second on the road, which will be important coming into the final few days. It was a good day overall but very hot!” – Jay McCarthy
“It was a really hard stage, with extreme weather conditions and scorching heat. Jay got one bonus second in the intermediate sprint, which could be crucial for the overall scoreboard because he’s now one more second ahead of the other GC contenders, although Nathan Haas got one second closer to us. I think we did a good job in the sprint. We didn’t get the win but we are working towards our first WorldTour victory of the season.” – Patxi Vila