Greipel tightens stranglehold on race

After crossing the line in 23rd place yesterday behind Footon-Servetto-Fuji’s Manuel Cardoso, it was business as usual today at the Santos Tour Down Under as HTC-Columbia’s André Greipel won his third stage out of four in this year’s race to retain the ochre leader’s jersey.

The German sprinter won the race in 2008 and was forced to abandon his defence following a crash last year, but he is looking increasingly likely to be the victor of this year’s event. Indeed, Greipel has pretty much made the race his own, having won eight of the 12 stages he has completed.

The 27-year-old played played down suggestions that he had the overall win sewn up, saying “today's race is over, but not tomorrow's." Thanking his team, he added “everyone is looking out for us but if the team works we can be successful. We deserve the wins because we always ride from the front."

Today’s Stage 4 took the peloton the 149.5km from Norwood to Goolwa and took place in high winds. A seven-rider break got away early on, but the peloton remained watchful, never letting a gap of more than three minutes develop and the escapees were caught with 13km left.

Lance Armstrong and TeamRadioschack colleague Tomas Vaitkuswhich then went on the attack, but despite building a lead of 23 seconds at won stage, they were eventually caught and some 40 riders took part in the sprint in Goolwa.

Armstrong said afterwards, “that was as hard as I can go," adding "Tomas went and kept going and kept going. I turned around and it was just the two of us. It was a good effort, maybe not the best outcome."

The Texan conceded however that Columbia-HTC’s sprinter was having an outstanding race, saying, "it would have been better to keep it down to a smaller bunch in that wind and hopefully give everyone a better chance against Greipel, but Greipel I think we can all see is unbeatable right now."

Katusha’s Robbie McEwen finished second on today’s stage, and has overtaken Team Sky’s Greg Henderson to occupy the same position in the overall statndings, 20 seconds down on Greipel.

Stage 4 provisonal result

1:Andre Greipel HTC – Columbia
2:Robbie McEwen Katusha
3:Graeme Brown Rabobank
4:Gert Steegmans Radio Shack
5:Manuel Cardoso Footon
6: Julian Dean Garmin Transitions
7:Jurgen Roelandts Omega Pharma Lotto
8:Matthew Goss HTC – Columbia
9:Robert Fester Milram
10:Yauheni Hutarovich Francaise Des Jeux

Provisional overall standings:

GC: Andre Greipel Team HTC – Columbia
Skoda KOM: Thomas Rohregger (Milram)
Jayco Sprint: Andre Greipel Team HTC – Columbia
Cycle Instead Young Rider: Jurgen Roelandts Omega Pharma Lotto
Hindmarsh Most Aggressive: Stef Clement – Rabobank.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.