In a bicycle race dominated by the sprinters and their teams, Cameron Meyer of Garmin-Cervelo threw a monkey wrench into the best laid plans by winning Stage 4 of the Tour Down Under and taking control of the race.
The 23-year-old Australian cyclist and four companions attacked the peloton with about 50 miles left in the 77-mile (124km) race through the Adelaide Hills from Norwood to Strathalbyn.
The gambit paid off. As the sprinters' teams — HTC-Columbia, Omega, Sky and others — picked up speed to rein in the attackers toward the finish, Meyer and his fellow instigators (including his teammate Matthew Wilson) increased their efforts enough to hold them off.
Not only did Matthew Goss (HTC-Columbia) finish 24 seconds behind Meyer, he lost his leader's jersey to his fellow countryman as well.
All the previous favorites — Goss, Andre Greipel and Robbie McEwen — dropped at least two places in the overall rankings. Goss is in third place, 2 seconds behind another breakaway cyclist, Laurens ten Dam (Rabobank). Defending champion Greipel is a close 4th and McEwen is in 5th.
Meyer started the day's stage in 46th place overall, 21 seconds behind Goss. This marked the first ProTour victory for the Australia's national time trial champion.
Acknowledging that the race is known for its sprints, he told an interviewer immediately after the race:
“We played it so beautifully in the breakaway… We just made sure we saved our energy until the last 30 km and we really drove it. Matt Wilson in the break with me was just unbelievable, I mean, I wouldn't have stayed away without him so it was just the perfect ride. …
“We definitely talk amongst our self the whole time, we kept checks on what the break away times were and how far we were ahead, so, in the end of the day we really had to play it cool and really wait, the peloton could bring it back when ever they wanted, so we had to waited until 30km to go and we really hit the gas and when we went, we went strong.”
Goss (HTC-Columbia) said the sprinters' teams misjudged how hard it would be to catch the break away:
“We knew what we had to do. I don't think we had enough support from the other teams, you know we're not the only ones who have goals for the overall, but, unfortunately today we lost time to some of those guys at the front and lost the jersey and hopefully well just get it back tomorrow.”
Stage 5 is a 131km (81-mile) bike race from McLaren Vale to Willunga that takes two climbs up and over the Old Willunga Hill, the biggest ascent in the Tour. It starts at 11 a.m. Saturday in Australia; that's 7:30 p.m. (ET) / 4:30 p.m. (PT) on Friday in the US.
Versus shows Stage 4 highlights at 6 p.m. (ET) / 3 p.m. (PT) Friday in the US.
Mark Cavendish, injured in a Stage 2 crash, didn't contest the sprint and finished in 98th place, 1 minute behind stage winner. Lance Armstrong, riding in his last international race, is ranked 81st overall, 3:56 behind the leaders.
Top 10 overall
1. Cameron Meyer (Garmin-Cervelo)
2. Laurens ten Dam (Rabobank), 10 seconds
3. Matthew Goss (HTC Columbia), 12 seconds
4. Robbie McEwen (RadioShack), 15 seconds
5. Andre Greipel (Omega), 16 seconds
6. Michael Matthews (Rabobank), 18 seconds
7. Ben Swift (Sky), 18 seconds
8. Blel Kadri (AG2R), 26 seconds
9. Francisco Ventoso (Movistar), 27 seconds
10. Allan Davis (Astana), 28 seconds