Ben Hill (RBS Morgans-ATS) was a deserved solo winner on Stage 4 of the Santos North Western Tour, breaking away from his escape companions inside the final 10 kilometres to take his first NRS win of the year.
The women's race was won by Specialized-SA rider, Kimberley Wells, who put in the strongest sprint in the bunch dash to the finish in Gunnedah.
With Mark O'Brien's Budget Forklifts team looking to defend the overall race lead against a long list of rivals, the yellow and black squad were always going to be in for a tough day of racing.
The opening descent from the Siding Springs Observatory helped launch the first escape of the day, a group of 25 riders going clear.
Among them was O'Brien's team-mate Michael Cupitt, playing the role of "ticket collector", but Cupitt was unable to keep his eye on everyone.
Hill, Ed White (GPM-Wilson), James Boal (John West), Matthew Marshall (TDU) and William Lind broke from the 25-man group late in the race as fatigue helped the front of the race splinter.
Hill, who had looked the strongest among the escape all day, then attack himself, to finish solo in the rural town of Gunnedah. The RBS Morgans-ATS rider was happy to take the win, after a handful of podium finishes at last week's FKG Tour of Toowoomba.
"I’m feeling pretty good, my goal was to try and win a stage at this tour and so now I’ve done that I’m really happy,” Hill said after the stage.
White took second, with Boal a close third.
O'Brien meanwhile did enough to hold on to his overall lead, with the final stage tomorrow, the final impediment to the Victorian making it three-from-three this season.
Ruth Corset retains her lead in the women's race, with Pensar-Hawk successfully keeping a stranglehold on the field before the eventual bunch sprint played out.
"My team did a great job getting me to the front and I am confident they can do the same tomorrow," said Corset.
Results, Stage 4: Men
1 Ben Hill (RBS Morgans-ATS)
2 Ed White (GPM-Wilson)
3 James Boal (John West)
4 Matthew Marshall (Team TDU)
5 William Lind (Suzuki-Trek)
6 Josh Taylor (GPM-Wilson)
7 Brock Roberts (John West)
8 Robert Quinn (Sutherland Shire)
9 Daniel Alcock (Racing Kangaroos)
10 John Walker (RBS Morgans-ATS)
1 Mark O'Brien (Budget Forklifts)
Results, Stage 4: Women
1 Kimberley Wells (Specialized SA)
2 Jane Walker (QSM)
3 Ruth Corset (Pensar Hawk)
4 Kristy Glover (Holden Cycling)
5 Davina Summers (Boss Construction/Nutrixxion)
6 Megan Bagworth (Boss Construction/Nutrixxion)
7 Sarah Roy (Unassigned)
8 Brittany Lindores (Boss Construction/Nutrixxion)
9 Katrin Garfoot (Pensar Hawk)
10 Rebecca Wiasak (Suzuki-Trek)
1 Ruth Corset