“It worked perfect today”, Wippert said. “We planned to let a small break go. We could control it and we chased it down together with ORICA-GreenEDGE and one other team. The last 10km was just that fast with the tail wind so it was a really fast run in and the sprint went perfect for me.
“There was a little crash, which was not good - I was just lucky I could get past it. With 300m to go I felt pretty safe for the win. The boys rode the whole way on top of the bunch so when you finish first it’s like a great job for them as well.”
Three riders broke away from the 119-strong field in the first 20km then another pair bridged to the trio shortly after, surprisingly eliciting little reaction from the peloton.
After traffic issues caused a brief stoppage to the race after 46km of racing (resuming again at the 50km mark) the breakaway continued to extend its lead - at one point creating a healthy six-minute advantage.
As the day’s sole KOM (at 151km) approached, riders from ORICA-GreenEDGE, Drapac and RTS-Santic slowly but steadily reeled in the lead group. The pressure to maintain their lead on the ascent was already having an effect on the break and the last two holdouts were picked up by a calculating peloton within the final 20km.
A crash within 400 meters of the finish line took race favourite Caleb Ewan (ORICA-GreenEDGE) and other key sprinters out of contention, leaving Wippert with slightly fewer rivals to battle with for line honours.
“We were supported by Drapac and that was great. We kept the break at six minutes until the middle part of the race and then we started to ride harder to get the gap down, with which we never had any trouble.
“Towards the finish we were setting up Caleb Ewan for the sprint and were in the front group," Orica-GreenEDGE sports director David McPartland said. "Everything until about 1200 metres to go was spot on perfect.
"However, with only 500 metres to go, a few of the riders’ wheels touched and there was a crash in which we were involved. Everyone is OK, but they got some skin off."
Wippert will not turn his attention to holding on to the race lead for as long as possible but stage wins remain his top priority.
“Our goal is to take as many stage wins home as possible. We’re not really looking to the GC because (stages) four and five is probably a bit hard for me, so the focus will be on the sprint stages,” Wippert said.
“The teams are really small so it’s going to be hard to control an eight-day tour with five people. It’s not my goal (to win GC) but every day in yellow is really nice so of course we’ll try to get it one more day.”