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ADELAIDE, Australia (AFP) — Australia’s Steele Von Hoff timed his sprint to perfection to win the fourth stage of the Santos Tour Down Under in the South Australian town of Mount Barker on Friday.
Von Hoff, riding for the local UniSA team, overpowered his rivals to win by a clear bike length from South African Daryl Impey (Orica GreenEdge) and Dutchman Wouter Wippert (Drapac).
Recently crowned Australian road race champion Heinrich Haussler left his run just too late, finishing fourth for his IAM Cycling team as the rest of the peloton trailed in after a mass pileup 150 meters from the line.
Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) kept the ochre leader’s jersey, seven seconds ahead of teammate Cadel Evans with Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) a further two seconds back.
Impey, who gained a time bonus in the intermediate sprint, jumped six places in the overall standings and is now 13 seconds behind Dennis in fourth.
The 144.5-kilometer stage began in the picturesque beach resort of Glenelg on a perfect day for racing.
Jack Bobridge (UniSA), who led the event after the second stage, launched an early attack and dragged fellow Australian Michael Hepburn (Orica) and Great Britain champion Peter Kennaugh (Sky) with him.
They stayed away long enough for Bobridge to take the king of the mountain points but were caught by the peloton with 65km to go.
A second group launched another break, with Kazakhstan’s Ruslan Tleubayev (Astana), Russian Maxim Belkov (Katusha), and Belgium’s Pieter Serry (Etixx-Quick-Step) getting out to a lead of a minute.
But the peloton never let the leaders get too far ahead and they were reeled in with 8km to the finish.
Spanish pair Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Gorka Izaguirre (Movistar) then tried to surprise the peloton on a small incline, but Orica led the chase and brought them back to the fold, paving the way for the sprinters.
Germany’s Marcel Kittel (Giant) had dropped off the back of the peloton by that point, leaving the race wide open and Von Hoff took full advantage.
He moved toward the front and then swept past Impey and Wippert to take the stage win.
Von Hoff, who was cut from the WorldTour at the end of last year when his Garmin-Sharp team merged with Cannondale, said the win would help him secure another contract.
“Jack Bobridge was looking after me all the way, saying ‘be patient, be patient, I know these roads like the back of my hand,'” he said.
“I just trusted him and he delivered me to the front in the final kilometer.
“The goal is to try and get up into the WorldTour, I’m just trying to do my best, and this helps.”
Saturday’s 151.5km fifth stage takes place on the infamous Willunga Hill, which the riders must ascend twice and which traditionally provides the best racing of the Tour Down Under.