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Martin Kohler is leading the Santos Tour Down Under with two stages to go. (©Sirotti)
Martin Kohler is leading the Santos Tour Down Under with two stages to go. (©Sirotti)

Tour Down Under, Stage 4: Back In The Lead

20. January 2012

Tanunda, South Australia

Martin Kohler of the BMC Racing Team regained the overall lead Friday at the Santos Tour Down Under by finishing with the front group of fewer than 50 riders. The leaders separated themselves from the field on the climb of Menglers Hill Road, about 25 kilometers from the finish of the 130 km race.

Four In The Lead Group

"It's an unbelievable feeling. I didn't expect it," Kohler said after pulling on the race leader's ochre jersey one day after losing it to André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) on a finish line time bonus. "I thought that the finale wasn't that hard, but it turned out that Greipel got dropped. He won the first immediate sprint and I was already thinking, 'Oh, now, he's already 11 seconds in the lead.' But in the end, it was several minutes that he lost." Oscar Freire (Katusha) took the stage win as the BMC Racing Team finished four riders in the leading group of 49: Greg Van Avermaet (20th, same time), Kohler (32nd, same time), Alessandro Ballan (47th, same time) and Mathias Frank (49th, 38 seconds back). Kohler has a two-second lead over Michael Matthews (Rabobank) in the overall standings while 45 riders are within 12 seconds of the lead, including Ballan and Van Avermaet.

Tremendous Teamwork
Kohler said it was "excellent work" by the BMC Racing team to help put him back in the overall lead. "Manuel Quinziato, Marcus Burghardt and Adam Blythe were looking to us that we have a good positioning on the climbs," he said, "In the end, it was Mathias working full gas for the sprint for Greg." Frank said he immediately started riding hard when he heard Greipel was dropped. "I started pulling with different teams and I felt good, so I kept going when the others stopped. It's cool to have the jersey again and I really hope that my roommate is going to have his day tomorrow so he can keep the jersey."

Queen Stage Saturday
BMC Racing Team Assistant Director Rik Verbrugghe said Kohler will receive the maximum support of the squad on Saturday's penultimate stage, one that is expected to decide the overall outcome. The 151.5 km race finishes with two ascents of the leg-breaking climb up Old Willunga Hill. "It will be good for Martin's morale to have the leader's jersey on the most difficult stage of the race," Verbrugghe said. "We're only doing the climb two times – not three, like the other years. But two times is already hard. Plus, it finishes at the top. I think we'll arrive with maybe 30 or 40 riders in the first group."

Click here to see photos from the stage: