Luck starts to turn in favour of Garmin-Cervelo in Adelaide
Garmin-Cervelo team director Matt White knew after two stages that his tactics for the 2011 Santos Tour Down Under had to change.
Five-time Grand Tour stage winner Tyler Farrar was down and out and nearly four minutes down after two days, following a crash that claimed a number of riders, including HTC-Highroad's Mark Cavendish.
Cameron Meyer was also caught up in the carnage but given his crash was within sight on the finish line in Mannum, his position in the general classification wasn't thwarted. With 93 other riders, he sat 10 seconds behind the race leader, Robbie McEwen of Team RadioShack.
A solid performance from Unley to Stirling on stage three gave the plucky 23 year-old West Australian's chances another boost, sitting 21 seconds off the ochre jersey of Matthew Goss (HTC-Highroad). Meyer missed the split so the rest of his race would come down to today's stage from Unley to Stirling.
"I thought it's going to be hard to make that back, but to get the stage win and throw my hands in the air at the finish line, it's just a great feeling," Meyer said after the win.
"We knew we had to do something," White told Cyclingnews after congratulating his team following Meyer's win today. "We haven't had the best of luck... It was an opportunity for the boys to attack and they rode very, very smart."
Stage win a true team effort
Meyer and teammate Matt Wilson were in the day's break at the 40km mark and there they stayed with Laurens ten Dam (Rabobank), Blel Kadri (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Thomas De Gendt and Rob Rujigh (both Vacansoleil) although the latter was dropped within 10km of the finish.
"It's always hard to stay away, especially in this race which is renowned for the sprints," said Meyer. "We worked really well together, it's a credit to the break, it's a credit to my team-mate Matt Wilson.
"We definitely talked among ourselves the whole time, we kept checks on the breakaway times and how far we were ahead, so in the end... we really had to play it cool, really wait.
"The peloton can bring it back whenever they want so we waited until about 20-30km to go and then we really hit the gas. When we went, we went strong.
"I don't think we would have stayed away without Matt there, he really saved my legs a little bit.
"He drove it in the last kilometre to make sure we did stay away, gave me the free run at the sprint and in the end I had the legs on the day to just come over the Vasconsoleil guy and win the race."
Meyer's self belief could very well have been his undoing though, as White pointed out.
"It's just a matter of holding him back all day and telling him 'take it easy, take it easy', because I knew he could snap everyone's legs off as soon as he wanted to," he said. "He was tossing up the idea of going solo at the finish and I said 'no, no, no, we're working well."
Wilson's work also impressed White.
"He sacrificed himself 100 per cent for Cam today and pulled the sprint 100 per cent," he beamed. "It was just awesome."
Defending ochre leader's jersey will be a tough ask
The Tour Down Under's annual highlight, the penultimate stage over Willunga Hill awaits the bunch Saturday.
The 131km stage will cover the three kilometre climb twice. Last year, spectators were treated to a thrilling showdown between Alejandro Ververde, Luis Leon Sanchez and Cadel Evans.
Asked how he expected tomorrow's fifth stage to unfold, Meyer was guarded.
"It's going to be interesting - it could be good, it could be bad," he mused. "Obviously we're climbing well and we're two of the better climbers in the race, but if it does come down to the finish, guys like Matt Goss who are only just behind me on GC are going to pick up those [time] bonuses."
A meagre 10 second lead is all that separates Meyer from another climbing specialist, Rabobank's Laurens ten Dam before a trio of sprinters – Matthew Goss (HTC-Highroad), Robbie McEwen (RadioShack) and defending champion Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) – who are 12, 15 and 16 seconds back respectively. Then at 18 seconds is perhaps the wildcard of the pack, Rabobank's Michael Matthews.
"We're not going to rely on it being an easy race and going down to the finish, we're still going to want to put a bit of pressure on the sprinters over the top," Meyer explained.
"Maybe if they get dropped and I'm in the front group and it goes all the way to the line, that could work for me. It's going to be very hard to unload them all the way to finish, I know Matt Goss and Michael Matthews and guys like them are climbing very well.
"Matt Goss was at the finish of the Australian road race title only a week ago and yesterday in Stirling the sprinters got up the hill and won the stage.
"It's going to be a difficult stage, but we're going to have a red-hot go at it."
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