The Santos Tour Down Under has delivered a historic maiden WorldTour stage win for Frenchman Bryan Coquard.
Coquard (Cofidis) crossing the finish line at Willunga town on Saturday saw the Santos Tour Down Under also deliver a fourth winner from a different nation in an intriguing 2023 edition of the race.
The 30-year-old claimed the Think! Road Safety Stage 4 victory ahead of Wednesday’s efex Prologue winner Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) and Hugo Page (Intermarche Circus Wanty).
“I have waited for 10 years for this first WorldTour win,’’ an elated Coquard said.
“I think I had a bad start to the race, I have won many races but no WorldTour races, I am very happy about this.
"It was nice to smell this team spirit with the guys who I can win."
Coquard joins Italy’s Bettiol, Germany’s Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious), Australia’s Rohan Dennis (Jumbo Visma) and Spain’s Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) as unique international stage winners.
The Cofidis sprinter currently sits 13th in the overall rankings after his empathic victory.
Jay Vine (UAE Emirates) is still the race leader, 15 seconds ahead of Bilbao and Simon Yates (Jayco AlUla).
The reigning Australian time trial champion is just 112.5km from claiming his first WorldTour GC when the Schwalbe stage 5 Unley to Mount Lofty pedals off from 11.30 am on Sunday.
Santos Tour Down Under key points
51.4km: efex king of the mountain 1 – Lower Willunga (category 4): Distance: 2.4km – Average gradient 2.9 percent
Daryl Impey (Israel-Premier Tech) and Jonas Rutsch (EF Education-EasyPost) led a breakaway and opened up a 3min:49sec gap in the first real piece of the action for stage 4.
Rutsch was first over the line on High Street, Willunga followed by two-time Tour Down Under champion Impey.
Mikkel Honore (EF Education-Easypost) came third in a sprint to the line, edging a point closer to efex King of the Mountain leader Jay Vine (UAE Emirates).
Taj Jones (Israel-Premier Tech) re-joined the race after a nasty crash just after the first efex King of the Mountain at lower Willunga.
The Australian started the stage 14min:30sec behind overall race leader Vine.
69.5km: Ziptrak Sprint 1 - Esplanade at Snapper Point, Aldinga Beach
Impey and Rutsch shared the honours.
The South African earned maximum bonuses as the main peloton started chasing the race leaders anxious for crucial bonus seconds.
Ziptrak GC points leader Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlULa) picked up a bonus second at Aldinga Beach for his third place.
Matthews was three points ahead of Vine in the virtual points classification at that stage of the coveted race.
The average race speed at the first sprint was 47 km/h.
92.3km: efex king of the mountain 2 – Lower Willunga (category 4): Distance: 2.4km – Average gradient 2.9 percent
The sound of the bell warning the peloton that this was the final lap of stage 4 saw the serious GC contenders on the chase to the finish line.
Honore earned the maximum KOM points, Marc Hirschi (UAE Emirates) was second and Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers) earned a point for third place.
Honore’s KOM points bonus saw him leapfrog Vine in the virtual KOM classification at that stage of the race.
Yates was seven points behind the Dane.
110.4km: Ziptrak Sprint 2 - Esplanade at Snapper Point, Aldinga Beach
This sprint was chaotic, elbows appeared to be out before 21-year-old Frenchman Hugo Page (Intermarche Circus Wanty) earned maximum time bonuses.
Poland’s Kamil Gredik (Bahrain Victorious) finished second and Simon Yates (Jayco AlUla) picked up the third, time bonus.
Yates’ bonus second equalled Pello Bilbao’s 15-second gap to race leader Vine in the virtual classification with just 22.8km before the finish.
The pace of the race was stunning with speeds reaching 51km/h at times before the windy conditions slowed the peloton to 44km/h.
133.2km: Race Finish
It came down to a fine bunch sprint finish when Frenchman Bryan Coqurd upstaged the favourites at the Willunga township finish line on a sunny and windy day.
The serious GC contenders Vine, Bilbao and Yates all came through unscathed in another fitting finale in Willunga.
Stage Winner – Bryan Coquard (Cofidis)
Santos Leader’s Jersey – Jay Vine (UAE Emirates)
Ziptrak Sprint Jersey – Michael Matthews (Jayco AlULa)
efex King of the Mountain – Mikkel Honore (EF Education-EasyPost )
Zwift Young Rider’s Jersey – Magnus Sheffield (INEOS Grenadiers)
Yamaha Most Competitive Rider – Daryl Impey (Israel-Premier Tech)