Patrick Bevin continued to show solid form and determination on stage three of the Santos Tour Down Under, sprinting to fifth place and holding onto the ochre jersey and race lead by one second over stage winner Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), with three stages remaining.
The 146-kilometer stage from Lobethal to Uraidla was billed as one of the toughest and most tactical stages in race history with seven laps of an undulating finish circuit providing more than 3000 meters of climbing.
Bevin’s teammates controlled the race from the start line and kept a seven-rider breakaway’s advantage within three minutes throughout the stage, before slowly pulling the group back.
By the time the race entered the final 50 kilometers, the peloton, led by the bright orange CCC Team train, was just over one minute behind the now-six rider breakaway.
The gap came down to 30 seconds approaching the last 30 kilometers, at which point three riders jumped ahead of the peloton to join the remaining three riders, and eventually it was just Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) in front.
Team Sky began to pick up the pace and caught Bettiol and as the bell rang to signal the final lap, the reduced group was flying with the General Classification contenders battling for position at the front.
Bevin remained calm, always sitting in the front ten riders, and despite multiple attacks in the final five kilometers, the race leader was able to respond and close any gaps before eventually sprinting to fifth place in Uraidla, behind Sagan.
A ten-second bonus for winning the stage sees Sagan move up to second on the General Classification, one second behind Bevin, while Luis Leon Sanchez sits in third place, nine seconds back.
The General Classification battle is set to heat up again on stage four with the Corkscrew climb and fast descent into the finish in Campbelltown expected to shake things up.
Quotes from the Finish Line
“Today was the nervous stage. To get through that still in the lead is a big step forward to the ochre jersey on Sunday. From here on out, I feel like it’s about the legs. Today was the tactical day that could have really blown up. We managed it really well and I said at the start of the day that if we’re coming into the sprint then we’ve done our job. To give back a little bit of time is not the end of the world.”
“The last lap was always going to be hard no matter how the day was ridden. There was too much at stake at the finish. I felt like I had to cover those last two or three kilometers to make sure it was all together at the finish and protect the jersey. I feel like I’m climbing really well and I had it completely under control in that last lap. There is no hiding tomorrow. That [Corkscrew] is a very tough climb. Thankfully the stage should play out fairly simply tomorrow, everyone wants to see who has the legs on Corkscrew and let’s hope it comes together at the bottom and we can stand here tomorrow still in the leader’s jersey. I feel like gravity is well in my favor for that eight-kilometer descent. I have done that descent a hundred times so I back myself to pull back any gaps. Obviously, they have to take time from me so it’s a little bit like today, I may cost myself the stage but if it means I’m still in the jersey, then that’s another win. I’ll be fighting all the way to the line to keep the ochre jersey.”
Jackson Stewart, Sports Director:
“It was a super job by the team. The guys were really motivated to keep the ochre jersey so much so that we didn’t let the breakaway go too far ahead. It was a good ride, everyone has come back to the team cars happy and Paddy kept the race lead, despite Sagan’s time bonus. I think tomorrow will be a little less hectic. It will be the climbers’ show, the General Classification showdown on the Corkscrew climb, and another good finish for Paddy. He has been going full gas, fighting really hard in the finishes so we’ll see how tomorrow is.”