January 20 - Stage 4: Willunga - Willunga, 147km
Finally, the big stage that everyone was working to since the beginning of the tour! The weather wasn't really any better than yesterday, I kind of had the feeling that I was back in the land that god forgot, which is West Flanders, Belgium. Plenty of wind and rain but no cobbles to make the trifecta complete.
So it was three laps of 39 km circuit before heading up the penultimate climb in Willunga and a further 15km to the finish. In good old cross wind fashion the gutter action came after about four kilometres.
It was a very fast and furious first lap and a break of about 11 went away at about the 30km mark and we could finally settle down a bit. Of the Navigators riders we had Darren Lill and Sergey Lagutin up there which was good. Unfortunately Sergey punctured shortly after they escaped and despite a tough, hard ride to get back across he couldn't get there.
For the remainder of the laps around the beach it was basically trying to keep yourself up front incase any teams wanted to line it out, which was the case on a few occasions. I was caught out once but got back on and made sure it didn't happen again.
The break was coming back as we neared the climb and the pace of the Lotto squad up front leading was splintering the field. We hit the climb and the race blew to bits, as usual.
The bottom seems to be the toughest 'till you can get yourself into a rhythm and ride yourself back up into or past groups. A small group had rocketed off the front and caught what was left of the break.
I had managed to ride up into the second group on the climb which had Hiltz [Ed: presumably Hilton Clarke] in it. He's really climbing well at the moment. We had talked earlier and he was feeling good so we'd decided if I was near him we'd stick together so I could help him get back up to the leaders.
As it turned out we didn't have to as the leaders jersey was in our group and he had a couple of team mates with him plus Team CSC were keen to bring back the break as well. It was a fierce, fast ride across the top of the climb and back down the quick descent in the rain.
As we neared the five kilometres to go sign we had caught the break and were now apart of a 50 strong group. The attacks continued along with heaps of gutter action right to the line.
A Choco' Jaques rider took the honours just ahead of Sergey with third going to Martin Elmiger of Ag2r. The two-second time bonus he gained from his place jumped him ahead of Menzies by a second to give him the leaders' jersey going into the final stage.
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