Freier wins 4th stage

2012-01-20 07:35

Adelaide - Oscar Freire of Spain won the fourth stage of cycling's Tour Down Under on Friday as the first testing climb of the six-stage race ended Andre Greipel's hopes of a third tour victory.

Greipel entered the stage with an eight second lead on general classification and increased that to 11 seconds when he picked up a three-second time bonus by winning the first intermediate sprint.

But the steep climb up Mengler's Hill, 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from the finish of Thursday's 130 kilometer (81 mile) stage from Norwood to Tanunda, ended Greipel's hopes of adding to his 2008 and 2010 Tour wins.

He was left behind as 40 riders broke away on the climb and he crossed the finish line seven minutes behind the stage winner.

The overall lead went to Switzerland's Martin Kohler, who finished among the leading group, credited with the same time as Freier, and reclaimed the tour leader's ocher jersey which he wore after stage two. Greipel won the first and third stages and to claim his ninth and 10th stage wins in the World Tour events.

Greipel tried to rally the peleton to close the gap on Mengler's Hill but the leading group pulled further away toward the finish line at Tanunda in the wine-growing region of the Barossa Valley.

He finished the stage in 55th place among 131 riders and 7 minutes, 55 seconds behind Freier. The result dropped him 7 minutes, 34 seconds behind Kohler on general classification and left him with no chance of winning the tour with two stages remaining.

Saturday's fifth stage, the longest of the race, takes riders 151.5 kilometers (95 miles) from McLaren Vale to a finish line atop Old Wilunga Hill at the end of the steepest climb of the race.

Kohler managed to stay with the leading group on Friday's climb to take a two second lead on general classification over Australia's Michael Matthews and Freier who held third place overall. Ciolek is fourth, 6 seconds behind Kohler, and Australia's Simon Gerrans fifth.

Only nine seconds separates the top-10 riders after four stages and the tour is now likely to be decided on Saturday's narrow, winding climb. The final stage around the streets of downtown Adelaide on Sunday, is unlikely to change placings after five stages.

"I didn't expect to be back in the lead but we dropped Andre Greipel in the climb and then we were riding hard to make the gap bigger," Kohler said. "Tomorrow there will be 10 or 15 riders contesting the win at the top of Willunga Hill.

"It's going to be very hard and I don't know if I can keep this lead or not but I'm already happy with what I'm doing here. Our team BMC feels at home with all the support we get but, of course, we are the team of (Australian Tour de France winner) Cadel Evans."

Norwegian rider Edvald Boasson Hagen took fourth place on Friday's stage and holds seventh place overall only 8 seconds behind Kohler. The winner of two stages on last year's Tour de France remains a leading contender for overall victory.

"I just try every day to move up on overall GC," he said. "It's nice to have the sprint jersey. I didn't expect it but that's not the one I'm looking for.

"I want to win the jersey of the overall classification. My team mate Thomas (Geraint) gave me a great lead out but I came out of his wheel a bit too far. The battle is still very open."

Previous winners of the Norwood to Tanunda stage include Evans and Germany's Eric Zabel.

Results from stage four of the Tour Down Under, a 130 km race from Norwood to Tanunda:


1. Oscar Freire (ESP/KAT) 3hr 08min 34sec, 2. Gerald Ciolek (GER/OPQ) same time, 3. Daniele Bennati (ITA/RNT) s.t., 4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR/SKY) s.t., 5. Michael Matthews (AUS/RAB) s.t., 6. Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP/MOV) s.t., 7. Luke Roberts (AUS/SAX) s.t., 8. Kristijan Koren (SLO/LIQ) s.t., 9. Sergey Lagutin (UZB/VCD) s.t., 10. Heinrich Haussler (AUS/GRM) s.t.

Selected: 11. Jeremy Roy (FRA/FDJ) s.t., 17. Simin Gerrans (AUS/GEC) s.t., 30. Sandy Casar (FRA/FDJ) s.t., 31. Blel Khadri (FRA/ALM) s.t., 32. Martin Kohler (SUI/BMC) s.t., 33. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) s.t., 40. Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP/RAB) s.t., 55. Andre Greipel (GER/LTB) 7:45

General classification

1. Martin Kohler (SUI/BMC) 15hr 03min 34sec, 2. Michael Matthews (AUS/RAB) at 02secs, 3. Oscar Freire (ESP/KAT) s.t., 4. Gerald Ciolek (GER/OPQ) 6, 5. Simon Gerrans (AUS/GEC) 8, 6. Daniele Bennati (ITA/RNT) same time, 7. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR/SKY) s.t., 8. Jan Bakelants (BEL/RNT) s.t., 9. Eduard Vorganov (RUS/KAT) s.t., 10. Rohan Dennis (AUS/UNI) s.t.

Selected: 11. Blel Khadri (FRA/ALM) 10, 22. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 12, 24. Heinrich Haussler (AUS/GRM) s.t., 32. Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP/RAB) s.t., 35. Sandy Casar (FRA/FDJ) s.t.