Laurence Pithie’s Australian campaign is getting more solid every day. On Friday, in stage four of the Tour Down Under, the young New Zealander claimed a top-5 finish for the second day in a row. After a slightly messy bunch sprint in Port Elliot, Sam Welsford completed the hat-trick while the rider from Groupama-FDJ crossed the line in fifth position. It’s now time for a weekend made for the GC men.

Heading towards Port Elliot, south of Adelaide, the peloton faced the lowest elevation gain of the week on Friday. Essentially flat, but not far from the coast, the route could, however, lead to a slight risk of echelons. This risk was ultimately ruled out, which meant no particular difficulty featured along the way. “It was a very calm day weather-wise,” said Jussi Veikkanen. “For a good part of the day, the wind was coming from the back, at 9, 12 km/h. Then, where we might have expected damage, as we got closer to the sea, the wind was coming from the side, but it really was not strong”. This thus favoured the “traditional scenario”. Vinicius Rangel (Movistar) and Jackson Medway (Australia) spent the day in the lead without ever causing the peloton any trouble. Their breakaway ended precisely twelve kilometres from the finish. “It was a very calm day, quite fast with the slight tailwind, but with only two riders in front, the peloton did not have to ride very hard,” summed up Laurence. “However, the last twenty kilometres were fast and furious, because all the teams were trying to move back up.” With less than ten kilometres to go, the Groupama-FDJ squad also appeared in the first positions of the peloton. “We tried our best for Laurence, and the guys worked pretty well,” Jussi added. “Clément and Enzo did a great job to keep us at the front,” agreed Laurence.

“I had to open up from a long way back”, Laurence Pithie

Clément Davy even kept pulling until the last three kilometres, then the Kiwi had to move by himself. “Fabian told us that he didn’t manage to find Laurence in the final,” explained Jussi. “On the other hand, the positive thing is that Enzo and Clément are gradually gaining confidence and experience. Even though Clément worked a lot with Arnaud’s sprint group, it was not in the same position as now. It’s a real new challenge for these two riders, and their progress since the start of this Tour Down Under has been noted by the others. This is also worth noting.” Thanks to his positioning ability, Laurence Pithie still managed to stay in the upper part of the peloton in the last two kilometres. “Unfortunately, in the last turn at 600 meters, I was too far back, between 15th and 20th place,” he explained. “I had a lot of space to make up, the sprint was super long, and I had to open up from a long way back. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t enough to be on the podium, but top-5 is also nice.” Thanks to a great comeback in the final straight, the wearer of the white jersey (by proxy) therefore took a nice fifth place.

“There will be opportunities for Reuben”, Jussi Veikkanen

“We have some regrets because if he was better positioned in the last corner, it could have been even better,” Jussi added. “He once again showed his power and his abilities, and the slight uphill finish also suited him. We have a real sprint/punchy sprint project with him, so we also want to build something from here for the rest of the season. It is important, from the first races, to get some habits, with teammates and with the competition. There is a nice field here. It will give him ideas and motivation for the future.” This weekend, however, Laurence Pithie should leave the spotlight to others, with the summit finishes at Willunga Hill and Mount Lofty. “Rudy’s abandon yesterday is obviously a big loss for us,” concluded Jussi. “He had a few ideas in mind and was very motivated for this weekend. We will think a lot of him, but there will also be opportunities to Reuben. We need to set new goals for tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.”

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