Defending champion Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) pipped Bevin (CCC) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) from a reduced group of title favourites to take line honours on Friday as the general classification took proper shape.
The 129.2km stage – that included the defining Corkscrew climb – exposed those in contention for the 2019 title. Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), Wout Poels (Sky) and Michael Woods (EF Education First) played a hand attacking with about 6km remaining.
Impey’s thoughts were between a late friend and his title defence in the immediate aftermath of the win in Campbelltown, which saw the main group catch that quartet on the descent to the finish.
“A good friend of mine Justin passed away from a sudden heart attack in the beginning of the year. When I left South Africa, I left in a bit of a sad mood. It was a pretty rough time for the whole family. I wanted to be able to do something special and to deliver today was pretty emotional and definitely a confidence booster,” he said.
Impey currently sits second overall, seven seconds adrift of Bevin with Sanchez a further four seconds back. Eighteen riders including Porte, Poels, Woods, Bennett and Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida) are all 21 seconds in arrears of the current leader.
“We are around the mark now. Seven seconds is still quite hard to get on Paddy, he’s riding really well,” Impey added. “We’re going to have to go for it. I’m sure tomorrow will be quite an interesting stage, and definitely Willunga is going to be the big decider still. Although Paddy has got a really nice buffer now on all the other GC guys.”
Porte last year claimed his fifth consecutive scalp at Willunga Hill, but it wasn’t enough to topple Impey, who took the race title on countback. That wasn’t lost on Bevin, who, knowing he’d need a buffer come this weekend, purposely put himself in the break on the opening stage for bonuses.
“I think we have to be aggressive wherever we can,” said Impey. “It’s no doubt trying to win this race is based on seconds, we learnt that last year.”
Poels said he wasn’t surprised by Bevin’s run of form in South Australia.
“I thought last year at the Tour of Britain he was also going really well. He’s in really good shape so it’s going to be difficult on the Willunga Hill. I hope to attack again and take some time,” Poels said.
The Dutchman, like Porte, was surprised the main group was able to come back on the Corkscrew descent, but happy with the job Sky did in positioning him for the climb.
“I thought we had a nice gap but unfortunately it was a little bit too long to the finish,” he said.
Bevin said he didn’t panic when Porte et al got up the road and would like again to take time in stage five, which is tipped to suit sprinters.
“They showed themselves as the best four pure climbers in this race, but this race fortunately is about being an all-rounder. You’ve got to basically sprint better than the climbers and climb better than the sprinters,” Bevin said.
“I took the onus up as much as I had to on the descent. I knew as the group got bigger, it got to the point where I thought if I can take any time bonus it’s good. Any is better than none. I wasn’t going to risk losing time to anyone.
“To give-up four seconds to Daryl at the end of the day is a great result. I don’t feel like he’s climbing better than I am, and we put time into the pure climbers again.”