Coming off the back of a superb leadout by UnitedHealthCare Pro Cycling, it was John Murphy who emerged victorious in the 3rd stage of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour as he edged Niccolo Bonifazio in a photo finish. The final 250 metres saw the riders take a sharp right hand turn after a downhill run into the corner, and it was the American that got delivered out of the corner in second wheel, and from there he simply had to put the power down all the way to the line and hold off the fast finishing pair of Bonifazio (Trek-Segafredo) and Steele Von Hoff (One Pro) to take the win.
Unbackable favourite Caleb Ewan (Orica-Greenedge) lost his leadout man in the sprint, and started from too far back to get into a winning position, eventually finishing 6th. Murphy talked after the race about how he approached the stage with most people expecting another easy win for Ewan.
?I don?t think any sprinter is unbeatable, if you have the right team in front of you, you can win anything you want. UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling was unbelievable today, they took me into that last corner in perfect position and all I had to do was do my sprint. I knew I couldn?t let him (Ewan) start in front of me. So the first thing I wanted to do was make sure that I started ahead of him, and if he comes around, he comes around. It was a very close finish with Bonifazio, so definitely happy to have that photo. Normally in photo finish, you know when you?re beat, but you don?t know when you?ve won. So I didn?t know, but Bonifazio knew that he?d lost, so that?s when I knew.?
It was the sleepiest stage of the Herald Sun Tour to date, with the perfect conditions and relatively easy course making for the most relaxed peloton the race had seen. Five riders were let go into the early breakaway without opposition, and it was Daniel Bonello (St George-Merida), Thomas Hubbard (Data #3 Cisco), Russel Downing (JLT Condor), Morgan Smith (Kenyan Riders Downunder) and Ben Hill (Attaque Team Gusto) that made up the move. The break got out to a maximum advantage of four minutes before the peloton, led by Sky and Orica-Greenedge decided that was enough, and worked to keep the gap in check.
The rider in the move with the most to gain was Hill, as he already had 10 points in the sprint category from a previous day?s break. That was the clear goal for Hill, as he won both of the intermediate sprint points, and then with none of the riders close to him on the points category taking the top positions at the finish, Hill moved to the top spot in the classification.
The peloton had begun steadily ramping up the pace by this point, with Orica-Greenedge trying to bring it back for their man Ewan, and the break?s advantage melted away. Morgan Smith tried a late attack to prolong the move, but with nine kilometres to go, the race was all back together. The run into the finish saw Mitch Docker on the front into the final corner, but upon looking around, he realised that Ewan wasn?t on his wheel and he ceded the front to UnitedHealthcare, allowing a perfect leadout for Murphy, which the fast American took full advantage of.
With the race kept quiet from a GC perspective Peter Kennaugh got to save his legs for the final day on Arthur?s Seat stage, where there will be three ascents of the famous climb. He talked after the race about his thoughts on how the race would pan out.
?I can?t read the future, but it?s a different climb from the first few days, it?s a lot shorter, and we?ve seen on the short climbs that guys like Jack Bobridge and other guys can hold their own. So it will be a different style of race. We?ll take things one step at a time throughout the stage and see how the legs are. If Froomey?s feeling super good then obviously he can do what he wants. I?m sure we?ll have a strategy set up for tomorrow. If I can hold onto the GC, I?ll go home a happy boy.?
In the other categories, it will come down to tomorrow?s stage to decide the winner of the Sprint, Young Rider and Mountains jerseys, with Chris Harper (State of Matter/MAAP), Chris Hamilton and Ben Hill holding slim leads over their rivals heading into the final day.