• The UnitedHealthcare team celebrate the day's victory (Kathryn Watt)Source: Kathryn Watt
John Murphy (United HealthCare) from the United States of America won the third stage of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour by less than a tyre width ahead of Niccolo Bonifazio (Trek-Segafredo).
By
Cycling Central

6 Feb 2016 - 5:16 PM  UPDATED 7 Feb 2016 - 9:43 AM

Steele Van Hoff (One Pro Cycling) rounded out the top three. Peter Kennaugh (Sky) retained the leader’s jersey on a day where the general classification remained unchanged.

The peloton easily controlled a five-man breakaway that escaped early in the predominantly flat 146.2km race from Traralgon to Inverloch, resulting in the anticipated bunch sprint. The only caveat was a tricky downhill fast corner ahead of the finish line.

 

"I thought the corner was a little bit further from the line," said Murphy after the stage. "So as soon as I came out of the corner I realized I had to start. So boom, just go from there and I hope I could hold it to the line. It was a really close finish with Bonifazio, so definitely pretty happy to just have that photo."

Asked if he was confident of the victory, Murphy applied a backwards logic to guess that it was his: "Usually, in a photo finish, you know when you’re beat and you don’t know when you’ve won,” he said. "I didn’t know, so I thought maybe I had it. Bonifazio knew he had lost.”

Bonifazio was also caught out by the distance between the final corner and the finish line, but his slower reaction appeared to cost him the victory.

"The team was fantastic today," said Bonifazio. "Everyone was there for me all day and then in the finale (Alafaci) Eugenio dropped me off at 500 metres to go. It was perfect, but after the last turn I underestimated how close the finish was, and I think I waited a little bit too long. It's really too bad because it was very, very close."

With the peloton finishing in the same time, the overall classification remains unchanged. Kennaugh continues to lead ahead of his team-mate Chris Froome while Trek-Segafredo's Jack Bobridge maintains third place. 

Speaking after the stage, Kennaugh admitted he was relieved that the day was a little more straightforward after some all-action racing this week.

"It was quite a straightforward day today which was really nice after the last few stages which have been all go and quite hectic. It was nice to sit back, keep the cadence low and the legs fresh for tomorrow,” said Kennaugh.

"We did a bit of work with (Orica) GreenEdge to control the break and then it was up to them for the sprint really, having the favourite (Caleb Ewan), and you see what happened at the end. It was a nice change."

The five-day race concludes tomorrow. The final stage includes three ascents of the fearsome Arthurs Seat and Kennaugh is relishing the challenge of holding onto the leader's jersey.

"We've seen yesterday on the shorter climbs that guys like Jack Bobridge can hold their own so I think it's going to be a different kind of race. We're just going to have to take things one step at a time throughout the stage, see how the legs are.

"If Froomey is feeling super good, it will be up to him, he can attack. I'm sure we'll have a strategy tomorrow and we'll take it from there.

"Fingers crossed."