Vine retains Tour lead after hectic stage

Australian Jay Vine has prevailed through a stressful day of crosswinds and echelon riding to retain the overall lead in his debut Tour Down Under.

Vine holds a healthy 15-second lead over British rider Simon Yates and Spaniard Pello Bilbao ahead of Sunday's final stage and the Mt Lofty summit finish.

While Yates' Jayco-AlUla team and the Bahrain Victorious riders around Bilbao will throw the kitchen sink at Vine, he and his UAE Team Emirates colleagues were outstanding through Saturday's hectic fourth stage.

The 133.2km stage in and around Willunga, south of Adelaide, looked like a straightforward day for the sprinters given it no longer features the Willunga Hill climb that defined the Santos tour for many years.

But the strong winds meant the strong men in the peloton licked their lips and turned the screw on the looped course.

French rider Bryan Coquard launched a long-range sprint to win the stage, with Vine finishing safely in the front group of 40 riders.

"It was pretty stressful. There was one point where I was like, 'Oh, we're going to have an easy day'," Vine said

"I was happy, smiling, waving to some families on the side of the road.

"Then 45km in it was just on and it was on until the end - a very hard day, a lot more calorie expenditure than I was planning.

"We have an amazing team, I think I had six guys in the front group helping me ... it's very confidence-inspiring, that's for sure."

It was a breakthrough win for Coquard, 30, and the first stage win at the tour by a French rider since 2000.

"Ten years ago I wait for this win," Coquard said.

"It was my first objective this year to win in a WorldTour (race) and before the (end) of January it is checked."

Australian star Michael Matthews continued his frustrating tour, finishing sixth.

The uphill sprint finish was tailor-made for the Jayco-AlUla rider, whose overall hopes were dashed by a mechanical problem on stage two.

"I had really high hopes. Unfortunately the legs weren't there," Matthews said.

"I struggled for most of the day."

Australian sprint ace Caleb Ewan (national team) was another favourite for the stage, but he had to settle for 10th.

Italian Alberto Bettiol (EF Education), who won the prologue time trial on Tuesday, finished second.

Predictably, the peloton splintered in the strong winds as teams ramped up the pace to put pressure on their rivals.

Jayco-AlUla were prominent throughout and their top domestique Luke Durbridge, nicknamed Turbo Durbo, helped drive the pace in the front group.

The echelon riding cleaved the peloton in two, with the front group staying clear to the finish.

None of the main overall hopes lost time in Saturday's stage.

While Vine is favourite to win the tour, Matthews said Jayco-AlUla will plot to dethrone him and set up Yates.

"It's still possible, we're still in the game. We're not going to give up," he said.

"It's been a rocky week for us, but Yatesy has stayed strong and he's put himself in a strong position.

"We're not here for second place."