In windy, blustery conditions Michael WOODS (EF Education First) secured a narrow 4 second advantage over fellow WorldTour pro Richie PORTE (Trek-Segafredo).
The pair went head to head on the final climb and descended like demons into the finish at Churchill. The slender lead comes via time bonuses received on the line in Thule Stage 2, taking the Jayco Herald Sun leaders jersey from team mate and Appselec Stage 1 winner Dan McLAY.
Frenchman Kenny Ellisonde (Team Sky) was third on the day.
The final ascent included nearly 2 kilometres of gravel and was always going to be a wild-card for the riders.
Woods: “I felt really great putting my hand up in the air and celebrating that win especially after all the hard work my team mates did today, we’ve been riding really well, and it was nice to already have yellow within McLay leading from yesterday… now we get to keep it for another day.”
“I knew that I had to launch on the last section of the pavement before the gravel started because once you get in the gravel it’s pretty tough to come around a guy and when you dictate pace on the gravel you can have a lot more control so that’s what I needed to do and it worked great.”
Porte: “Obviously we’ve done it before in the Giro and things like that, I think it’s something different, obviously in road racing you don’t want to do too much but I think John Trevorrow has done a fantastic job with the course today, it was a great finish, no one knew about the climb, he’s probably grown up around this area and that was his old training ground.”
“When you’re climbing it was quite steep there actually, it was probably around 12% or something like that, so it’s different climbing on that you kind of have to pick a bigger gear and try and sit in the saddle, which I was doing, but Woodsy was dancing out of the saddle, so he is obviously done a bit more on the gravel than I have I think it’s nice in races, it wasn’t, it wasn’t dangerous, I think it was a great day.”
The race was split early with six riders establishing a breakaway and soaking up sprint points, before the peloton chased them down. Luke ROWE (SKY) led his team to the front and split the group again. With 30 kilometres to go a crash brought down the rear of the bunch, and a number of riders may be doubtful to start tomorrow.
The Tour continues tomorrow with an undulating stage from Sale to Warragul.