Ewan wins 4th stage of Tour Down Under, Porte retains lead

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Australia’s Caleb Ewan out-sprinted Sam Bennett of Ireland to win the fourth stage of the Tour Down Under cycle race Friday but Richie Porte retained the overall lead.

Ewan, who also won the second stage, had stronger legs than first stage-winner Bennett at the end of a testing 152.8 kilometer (95 mile) state from Norwood to Murray Bridge.

The stage featured a technical finish with a sudden narrowing of the road compressing the peloton and making it essential teams had their sprinters at the front of the bunch. There was then a very tight left-hand bend 300 meters from the finish, before the sprinters could unleash their winning bids.

Bennett went first and broke away from the bunch but Ewan mowed him down to win by almost a bike length. Jasper Philipsen of Belgium was third and German veteran Andre Greipel, winner of a record 18 stages on the Tour Down Under, was fourth.

Porte managed to stay with the leading bunch to defend the tour leader’s jersey, though his overall lead over two-time defending champion Daryl Impey was halved from six to three seconds. South Africa’s Impey picked up time bonuses on the course to cut into Porte’s lead with two stages remaining, including the famous climb to the top of Wilunga Hill.

Ewan has the chance of another stage win Friday on the 149.1 kilometer (92 mile) stage from Glenelg to Victor Harbour. The race will then be decided in Sunday’s queen stage, on the steep final climb at Wilunga.

The first half of Friday’s stage was undulating but the second half was mostly flat, setting up a technical battle for control of the peloton. A five-rider breakaway lasted more than 60 kilometers but the peloton was together for most of the last 20 kilometers, reaching high speeds on many sections.

“We knew there was going to be a lot of wind when we turned onto the flat part in the second half of the course,” Ewan said. “My team was always up the front, I was never in trouble and they did such a good job and they meant I had good legs in the finish.

“It was a very tight corner into the finish but to be honest I like it when there’s a corner and a bit of a technical finish and I just told my last man to put me on the wheel of Sam Bennett and that’s what he did.”

The race is the first event in the 2020 World Tour.