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9th Tour Down Under - 2.HC

Australia, January 16-21, 2007

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Stage 4 - Saturday, January 20: Willunga - Willunga, 147km

Complete live report

11:00 CST   

Overnight race leader 'Killer' Karl Menzies and his rather well-credentialed team in the Australia-UniSA squad, including riders such as Matt White (on leave from Discovery) and Allan Davis (we still don't know what team - but it'll be big) will be riding in support today of the 'Big Dog' as he attempts to hold on to his 1 second lead over Swiss rider, Martin Elmiger (AG2r Prévoyance), and Danish rider Lars Bak (CSC) who follows by seven seconds.

Some rain is predicted for Saturday's stage and who knows if the peloton will be able to ride up SA's version of the Koppenberg (Willunga Hill) without sliding backwards? Unlikely, of course, but we have to write things like that.

11:05 CST    144km/144km to go
And welcome to the second last day of what's turned out to be a thrilling ride to the line in this year's Tour Down Under. The rain clouds have decided to hang around for yet another day here in Adelaide, following on from the tour's first wet stage in its nine-year history yesterday. From here in Cyclingnews online blimp - Hindenburg V-2 - conditions are humid at 24 degrees, with a breeze coming in from the ocean and dark cloud threatening to give the riders a repeat of yesterday's wet conditions.

11:08 CST   
And the riders are underway, rolling out for the two-kilometre neutral

11:11 CST   
Manuel Calvente Corbas has fell off the back of the peloton, while Serge Pauwels is also having some difficulty.

11:11 CST   
Today's stage takes us 147 kilometres through the South West of Adelaide. All eyes will be on the decisive King of the Mountain climb in today's race, with the climb infamous for it's ability to make or break a rider's bid to take out the leader's jersey.

11:13 CST   
A group of 25 riders have gone off the front of the peloton. No word as to who is heading up the group at this stage.

11:14 CST   
The early break is beginning to make ground, having pulled out a 200metre gap already over the peloton. Riders will need to be careful not to wear themselves out too quick, with today's first sprint a distant 58.8 kilometres into this stage.

11:15 CST   
The peloton has moved to quash the break's attack, closing in on the 25-strong group to bring them back into the peloton.

11:17 CST    134km/10km to go
The riders have now completed the first 10km. If the wind conditions continue the way they are now, then big Karl Menzies could benefit from the tailwind up today's climb and down towards the finish line. The Australia - UniSA rider started today's stage in the leader's jersey with a narrow 0.01 second margin over AG2r Prevoyance rider Martin Elminger.

11:17 CST   
Strong cross-winds on the course have forced riders into a single file formation.

11:20 CST   
The race's leader, Karl Menzies, was feeling confident about today's stage when we caught up with him, saying he believes his team will help him get through today's stage. "I had a good feed last night and a big breakfast - eggs and oats, but not together... That's just silly! [Chris]Jongewaard will be my man to the last stage. He is really strong. And we know the climb so I am confident." Jongewaard is indeed in form, having finished second on yesterday's stage.

11:22 CST   
Three teams have began to attack as the riders wind along the beach-side roads at Willunga. Credit Agricole, Predictor Lotto and Chocolade Jacques.

11:23 CST   
Agritubel's Manuel Calvente Corbas and Credit Agricole's Nicholas Roche have caught and rejoined the peoloton.

11:26 CST    128km/16km to go
As the riders pass the 16 kilometre mark, the break has been brought back by the main peloton. The pace at this stage is just beginning to settle into a rhythm.

11:27 CST   
More attacks have commenced as riders pass through the large crowds lined up along today's course. Fans are out with all sorts of national flags, cheering on the riders.

11:28 CST   
Credit Agricole, Team Milram and AG2r - Prevoyance are leading the current lot of attacks.

11:32 CST   
Alberto Martinez (Agritubel), Moises Duenas (Agritubel) have abandoned the race, slowing down to a halt before removing their numbers.

11:34 CST   
The attempts to form a break have really heated up with Unibet.com and Team CSC the driving forces behind the attacks.

11:35 CST    124km/20km to go
The riders are again setting a hot pace despite the weather conditions, we've just received word that the bunch has covered the opening 20 kilometres in just on 23 minutes.

11:36 CST   
Unibet.com has continued its push forward, with the outfit leading a break of 30 riders. The bunch has already formed a 16 second margin over the main peloton and are continuing to increase the gap.

11:37 CST    120km/24km to go
AG2r -Prevoyance has taken over at the head of the break.

11:38 CST   
Martin Elmiger was happy with his form so far when we spoke to him before today’s start. However the AG2r rider wasn’t sure on what today would bring: “We have to wait and see, especially how the race leader is riding today. These last few days I've been surprised by my form - so early in the season. I'm even climbing well and I'm not a climber!”

11:39 CST    118km/26km to go
More riders had just crossed to the break, increasing its size to 40, but a push by the main peloton looks set to draw the group back in.

11:43 CST   
Seven riders have formed a break: Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Telecom), Glenn D'hollander (Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen), Sergey Lagutin (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team), Hans Dekkers (Agritubel), Robert McLachlan (Australia - UniSA), Clinton Avery (New Zealand National Team), Julian Dean (Credit Agricole)

11:45 CST   
Four riders are trying to bridge to the main break, they are: Fabrizio Guidi (Barloworld), Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2r Prevoyance), Darren Lill (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team), Diego Caccia (Barloworld)

11:46 CST    30km/114km to go
The four riders have caught the leading seven, putting 11 riders out front with another three attempting to cross. The leading bunch have 1.15 minutes over the peloton now.

11:47 CST   
Sergey Lagutin (Navigators) has a puncture.

11:48 CST   
The following three riders are trying to bridge to the break away and are currently only seven seconds behind: Allan Johansen (Team CSC), Matt Wilson (Unibet.com), Heath Blackgrove (New Zealand National Team)

11:49 CST   
Sergey Lagutin (Navigators) is chasing down the lead bunch solo

11:51 CST   
The break has increased to 13, with Sergey Lagutin (Navigators) 1.12 minutes behind and the main peloton at 2.08 minutes.

11:52 CST   
Australia - UniSA's Robert McLachlan is having a chat with the lead bunch as the rain begins to fall. It is only sprinkling at this stage, as the riders pass Penny's Hill winery.

11:53 CST   
Sergey Lagutin (Navigators) is sitting up and looks set to fall back into the peloton.

11:54 CST   
Darker cloud is beginning to move in over the course, as winds also pick up.

11:56 CST   
The break is rolling along nicely now as the riders approach the start line for the first time since the race got underway.

12:00 CST   
Riders have just crossed the start line, completing the first lap of today's course. The sprinkling has now turned into a proper shower, and the peloton is 3.09 minutes adrift.

12:01 CST   
Glenn D'Hollander (Chocolade Jacques) is attacking.

12:03 CST    43km/101km to go
Brett Lancaster told us before the start of today’s race that this year’s even is just a training event for Team Milram, but the riders had better watch out for him on tomorrow’s final stage. “We've had someone in every break - me yesterday. It was hard but I'm happy with my form," he explained. "This is great training, even if we don't get a win. But I think tomorrow I'll have a go. The first and last days are meant for me.”

12:05 CST   
Glenn D'Hollander (Chocolade Jacques) has been caught by the break, while the peloton is now 3.33 minutes behind.

12:12 CST   
Allan Johansen (Team CSC) is driving the lead bunch, which now has a 3.48 minute lead over the peloton.

12:16 CST    48km/96km to go
As kilometre 48 rolls around here's a quick update on who's in the lead break: Samuel Dumoulin (AG2r Prevoyance), Allan Johansen (Team CSC), Julian Dean (Credit Agricole), Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Telecom), Matt Wilson (Unibet.com), Glenn D'hollander (Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen), Darren Lill (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team), Fabrizio Guidi (Barloworld), Diego Caccia (Barloworld), Ludovic Turpin (AG2r Prevoyance), Hans Dekkers (Agritubel), Robert McLachlan (Australia - UniSA), Heath Blackgrove (New Zealand National Team), Clinton Avery (New Zealand National Team)

12:19 CST   
The lead bunch is rounding back on to the beach-side roads, with the riders now just 5 kilometres from the first sprint. The bunch has maintains the same distance ahead of the peloton and rain has ceased for the time being.

12:20 CST   
The peloton is closing in on the lead bunch, with the gap now down to 3.33 minutes.

12:21 CST   
Alberto Martinez (Agritubel), Moises Duenas (Agritubel) have re-joined the peloton.

12:21 CST   
Just 3 kilometres left in the first sprint

12:23 CST   
Word from the beachfront is some of Australia’s finest Police officers are getting competitive – reportedly doing their best impression of Robbie McEwen along the foreshore at the commentator’s request.

12:24 CST   
Here we go, just one kilometre now before points are awarded for the first sprint.

12:26 CST    58.8km/85.2km to go
The peloton continues to close in, with the gap just 2.52 minutes. The lead bunch has passed through the first sprint with Hans Dekkers (Agritubel) through first followed by, Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Telecom) and Matt Wilson (Unibet.com)

12:26 CST   
Team CSC has hit the front of the break and are driving hard now.

12:29 CST   
Unibet.com has hit the lead and are working together with the Team CSC boys, but crosswinds down on the foreshore are making it hard for all of the riders.

12:31 CST    63km/81km to go
The peloton continues its impressive drive forward as the winds increase. It has pushed hard to reduce the gap to the break to just 2.31 minutes, having shaved off more than a minute over the last 13 kilometres.

12:32 CST   
Koen Barbe (Chocolade Jacques) has caught the peloton again, having fallen off the back, albeit with a little help from the team car.

12:35 CST   
The peloton's push forward seems to have stalled, with the gap back out to 2.40 minutes.

12:39 CST   
Robert McLachlan (Australia - UniSA) is leading the break, which continues to hold its 2.40 minute lead over the peloton.

12:44 CST   
Team CSC manager Scott Sunderland looked into the crystal ball this morning when we spoke to him, giving his prediction of the way today would play out. “It is a funny race. The trend the last few days has been for a break to go up the road to take all of the bonuses. It makes for a negative race - a boring race just doing the in between stuff,” he explained. “Doing two laps up the hill, like we used to do, would have been better for us. Makes it easier to defend from UniSA, so we'll have to pressure all day.”

12:52 CST   
Team CSC and Unibet.com continue to take turns in leading the peloton, which has taken back a few more seconds on the lead bunch. The peloton is currently at 2.37 minutes.

12:57 CST   
For those interested in the points standings, after today's first sprint Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Telecom) leads overall from Viktor Rapinski (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team) in second with the following riders all tied for third place: Luke Roberts (Team CSC), Gene Bates (SouthAustralia.com-AIS), Wesley Sulzberger (SouthAustralia.com-AIS)

12:58 CST   
Riders have just passed through the start line for a second time, and the peloton, with Team CSC at the front, has continues to push closer to the break. The peloton is currently at 2.23 minutes.

13:02 CST    81.8km/62.2km to go
SouthAustralia.com-AIS is controlling the pace of the field as it closes in on the second sprint.

13:10 CST   
The Team CSC led peloton has again dropped time to the break group, with the latter's lead back out to 2.40 minutes.

13:12 CST   
Winds along the foreshore have changes and are beginning to cause problems for the riders. A strong headwind has formed which may have contributed to the increasing gap between the main bunch and the peloton, which is now at 2.45 minutes.

13:13 CST    86km/58km to go
The time gap between break and the peloton continues to blow out, with the peloton now 2.45 adrift.

13:17 CST    95.7km/48.3km to go
The leading bunch has just rounded onto the foreshore for the third time, and are now within a stone's throw of today's final sprint. Current overall sprint points leader Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Telecom) in still in the leading bunch and could well extend his lead in just 5 kilometres time.

13:19 CST   
Today's final sprint is just 4 kilometres away and the leading bunch's gap to the peloton is holding steady at 2.41 minutes.

13:24 CST    99.7km/44.3km to go
The riders have just passed a lone kite surfer along the beach front, as they approach the final kilometre of today's last sprint.

13:25 CST   
Reports from the ground say that while rain has been holding off for the last hour, but are just beginning to return. Ground around the decisive King of the Mountain climb was still damp, even prior to the most recent showers. The bad news for the riders is that a storm front is believed to be within 80 kilometres of the region and quickly approaching. A storm front could cause the descent to the finish line to be a hairy one!

13:28 CST    100.7km/43.3km to go
The same three riders have taken out the top three positions in today's second sprint with Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Telecom) first followed by Hans Dekkers (Agritubel) and Clinton Avery (New Zealand National Team)

13:29 CST   
UniSA has moved to the front of the peloton, which is currently 2.20 minutes behind the leading break.

13:32 CST   
Chocolade Jacques and Team Milram have bolted to the head of the peloton and are driving hard.

13:32 CST   
Of the riders in the break, Ludovic Turpin (AG2r Prevoyance), poses the biggest threat to the top ten, being 9.03 behind the current race leader (Karl Menzies - Australia-UniSA) and in 25th on GC. The rest of the break are very much the back-markers on GC in this year's TDU, including second-last rider on GC, Navigators' Darren Lill.

In previous years, a group has formed on this stage and got away from the main peloton, only as long as it didn't include any rider who was a real threat to the overall lead. In fact, in this stage last year, Belgian rider Glenn d'Hollander became the holder of the 'virtual' ochre jersey, by virtue of the rather large gap the break formed prior to the climb up Willunga Hill. In the 42-degree heat and 50kmh winds of the 2006 race, the gap went up to nearly nine minutes and the Belgian rider held a three minute lead over then race leader Simon Gerrans, but by the time they got to Willunga, the lead was reduced to under five minutes, and the riders in the break exploded over the climb as their efforts took their toll. Gerrans and his real GC contenders ate away the Belgians lead with every pedal-stroke, and it was Luis Sanchez (Liberty) who put the real heat on the young Victorian rider from the French squad.

However, that was 2006 and this year it's 18 degrees at the top of the climb - less than half the temperature of last year's stage. The exploits of the break-away group are somewhat irrelevant to GC, as riders like Martin Elmiger (AG2r Prévoyance), who trails 2007 TDU race leader Karl Menzies (Australia-UniSA) by only one second, and CSC's Danish rider Lars Bak, another six seconds behind, only have to build a gap on Menzies (not a noted climber but very capable for a large man) on this climb.

The weather today should favour 'Big Dog' Menzies, and he does have a strong team in support. Even if one of the riders close to Menzies on GC does pull a gap on the Tasmanian by the top, they then have to hold it on the final 20km run into Willunga, and Menzies has some fine cyclists in support. It's unlikely Karl will lose *that much* time on the climb, but who knows? Stay tuned.

13:33 CST   
Predictor - Lotto and Navigators have now hit the front of the peloton and are driving it hard.

13:35 CST   
The first riders have just hit the first in a 10 kilometre stretch of rolling hills that lead to the base of the Willunga Hill KOM.

13:36 CST    105km/39km to go
The peloton continues to hold its gap steady at 2.20 minutes.

13:38 CST   
Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Telecom) currently leads the break from newly crowned New Zealand Road Champion Julian Dean (Credit Agricole) and his countryman Heath Blackgrove (New Zealand National Team).

13:43 CST   
Droves of spectators have dusted off the umbrella and converged on the top of Willunga hill for today's King of the Mountain climb. Despite the appalling weather conditions, crowds at the finish line are reportedly four deep with a Cyclingnews source describing the area as "buzzin'".

13:44 CST   
Barloworld and UniSA are currently leading the charge in the main peloton.

13:51 CST    113.7km/30.3km to go
Fans on today's stage are clearly getting behind yesterday's winner Baden Cooke, with many "Kick arse Baden" signs being displayed over the lead up to the KOM. The peloton are now 2.26 behind the main break.

13:55 CST    122km/22km to go
The leading bunch of 13-riders continues to maintain its lead of 2.25 minutes over the main peloton. As riders near the KOM climb, the rain continues to fall while winds on Willunga Hill also continue to rise.

13:58 CST   
Predictor - Lotto heads the peloton has riders commence the last lap of the event - the next time these riders pass through Kell Street a winner will be decided. We're told that some debris has fallen on the KOM climb, due to the strong winds currently blowing in the area.

13:59 CST    122km/22km to go
The main peloton has just passed through the finish line and timers have told us the gap to the break has been closed by nearly half a minute since our last update. There is now just 1.45 seperating the groups with the KOM approaching.

14:00 CST   
Hans Dekkers (Agritubel) has been dropped from the main bunch.

14:01 CST   
Credit Agricole are working hard in the peloton while Wim Vansevenant (Predictor Lotto) has dropped out the rear.

14:03 CST   
Matt Wilson (Unibet.com) and Clinton Avery (New Zealand National Team)
have also been dropped from the lead bunch as the main peloton races forward towards the main bunch. The gap is now less than a minute at 45 seconds.

14:04 CST   
Less than one kilometre left in the KOM sprint and the following riders remain in the lead bunch: Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Telecom), Glenn d'Hollander (Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen), Heath Blackgrove (New Zealand National Team), Fabrizio Guidi (Barloworld), Julian Dean (Credit Agricole), Diego Caccia (Barloworld)

14:05 CST   
The dropped riders are at 15 seconds with the main peloton at just 38 seconds, having reduced the gap by nearly two minutes in five kilometres.

14:08 CST   
The massive build of event leader Karl Menzies is battling his way up the KOM and believed to be hurting, but hasn't lost time to any of the crucial players as yet.

14:10 CST    127.4km/16.6km to go
We believe Heath Blackgrove (New Zealand National Team) was the first through the KOM, however the riders were that close we are awaiting confirmation by officials.

14:15 CST   
Well, it wasn't Blackgrove that took out the KOM but countryman Julian Dean, who reccently won the NZ Road Champion title. The results from the KOM were as follows: Julian Dean (Credit Agricole), Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Telecom), Glenn D'hollander (Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen), Fabrizio Guidi (Barloworld), Heath Blackgrove (New Zealand National Team), while the second bunch was 28 seconds apart: Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2r Prevoyance), Matthew Lloyd (Predictor - Lotto), Matt Wilson (Unibet.com), Gustav Larsson (Unibet.com), Matteo Carrara (Unibet.com), Clinton Avery (New Zealand National Team), Gene Bates (SouthAustralia.com-AIS), Martin Elmiger (AG2r Prevoyance), Wesley Sulzberger (SouthAustralia.com-AIS), Sergey Lagutin (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team), Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel), Alexandre Botcharov (Credit Agricole), Eduardo Gonzalo (Agritubel), Simon Gerrans (AG2r Prevoyance), Nicolas Crosbie (Bouygues Telecom), Serge Pauwels (Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen)

14:17 CST   
Karl 'Big Dog' Menzies was 58 seconds behind the lead bunch.

14:19 CST   
There's now 18 seconds between the lead and second bunches as the riders head down the other side of Willunga Hill. Martin Elmiger (AG2r Prevoyance) now heads the second bunch and is looking good to steal the leader's jersey from Menzies.

14:25 CST    130km/14km to go
Karl Menzies is starting to eat into the deficit he lost to Martin Elminger on the ascent of Willunga Hill by powering away across the top of the range. A report has come through that team-mate, Robert McLachlan, dropped off the back of the chasing bunch to assist.

14:27 CST    141km/3km to go
The rain has stopped falling on the way to the finish line. The leaders face a three kilometre up-hill drag to the finish line where they will be greeted by thousands of fans who are braving the conditions and likely to see an exciting finish.

14:28 CST   
Menzies has the big motors going and has pulled back the second break containing Martin Elmiger (AG2r Prevoyance) to 10 seconds.

14:29 CST    143km/1km to go
The riders are just one kilometre from the finish line! Here we go!

14:32 CST   
Riders are approaching the line, and all three groups have reformed! It's going to be a sprint to the line!

14:32 CST   
Just 300 metres remaining and the leaders are hugging the left side of the course. The sprint is on, they are going for it.

14:34 CST   
Pieter Ghyllebert (Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen) has taken a thrilling victory in a bunch sprint to the line! Rain, crosswinds, perfect conditions for a Belgian.

14:34 CST   
Big Karl Menzies has finished in the lead bunch which may see him retain the overall jersey!

14:35 CST   
Wait, there are time bonuses for the top three which could affect the overall standings, including the leader's jersey. Stand by as we wait for confirmation.

14:38 CST   
There were a group of 15-20 sprint for the finish in the lead bunch. Tim Gudsell (New Zealand) led the peloton in with some crazy sprinting around four minutes behind. We're awaiting the results of a photo finish for the result's affect on the overall race situation...

14:46 CST    144km/0km to go
Word around the finish line says that Menzies' Australia - UniSA teammate Robert McLachlan waited in the second bunch as the line neared, then pushed the big Tasmanian into the lead bunch and across the line. While we're still awaiting confirmation on the finish, it's believed that AG2r's Elmiger may have taken third place which, with the time bonus, would see him take the leader's jersey from Menzies.

14:49 CST   
It's confirmed! Elmiger has taken second place which, with the two second time bonus, sees the Swiss rider take the leader's jersey from 'killer' Karl Menzies. The top three from today's stage are: Pieter Ghyllebert (Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen), Sergey Lagutin (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team), Martin Elmiger (AG2r Prevoyance)

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