- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) - German sprinter Andre Greipel increased his record tally to 15 stage wins on Austalia’s Tour Down Under by taking out Friday’s fourth stage, while former Tour de France champion Cadel Evans clung to a diminished lead on general classification.

Greipel won the 148.5 kilometer (92.2-mile) stage from Unley in Adelaide’s suburbs to Victor Harbor from his Lotto Belisol teammate Jurgen Roelandts of Belgium and Elia Viviani of Italy.

Greipel’s 15th stage win on the tour takes him further ahead of retired Australian Robbie McEwen who previously held the record of 12 stage wins.

“This was actually the first opportunity for the sprinters today,” Greipel said. “We finished first and second and it shows it was a real team effort today.

“A really nervous stage all day but we could survive the crosswinds action with GreenEdge with six guys. So we could put the pressure on for the sprint.”

Australian Simon Gerrans, who started the day 12 seconds behind Evans on general classification, finished fourth and picked up a 2 second time bonus on the road to cut Evans’s overall lead to 7 seconds.

Diego Ulissi of Italy remained in third place overall, 14 seconds behind Evans while Australian Nathan Haas is fourth a further nine seconds behind.

The fourth stage of the six-stage race, first event of the the 2014 World Tour, was intensely tactical as a determined early breakaway and strong crosswinds near the end of the stage splintered the peleton.

There was early and determined break by five riders: Michael Anderson of Denmark, Axel Domont of France, Yukiya Arashiro of Japan and Australians Cameron Wurf and Wesley Sulzberger. Domont, who started the day 1 minute, 18 seconds down on the race leader was the only member of the breakaway in contention on general classification.

Approaching halfway, Domont and Wurf rode away from the other three leaders, who were almost five minutes ahead of the peleton, but that lead was steadily reduced as strong winds caused the peleton to break apart.

There were several attacks near the end of the stage and Evans, among others, worked himself into a challenging position. But Greipel, who won the tour overall in 2008 and 2010, worked hard on the main climb of the stage to stay in a challenging position and was able to hit the line first.

“I knew it would be open, I knew about the crosswinds so the whole team was in front when we started,” Greipel said.

“We deserved the win today. I was already confident before, I just made mistakes in sprints. I’m just happy that this time it paid off.”

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