Vine turns screw on Tour Down Under rivals

Jay Vine has channeled Colonel "Hannibal" Smith, showing he leads the A-Team at the Tour Down Under with a ride that could decide the race.

All eyes were on the 27-year-old Australian talent when the race hit Friday's crucial Corkscrew climb and he did not disappoint, joining British rider Simon Yates and Spaniard Pello Bilbao in a decisive attack.

They stayed clear and Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) won their three-up sprint to take out the 116.8km stage from Norwood to Campbelltown ahead of Yates (Jayco-AlUla).

But Vine and his UAE Team Emirates squad were the big winners - the Australian was third to hold a 15-second lead over Bilbao on general classification and Yates another second behind with two stages left.

The overall title now appears a three-rider battle.

"There's a famous old TV show of the '70s - 'I love it when a plan comes together'," Vine said of "Hannibal" Smith and his signature quote.

"All I had to do was go on the last hill, they (his teammates) helped me all day, full credit to them, they did an amazing job.

"It was just full-gas to the finish, I'd seen quite a few times when the race finishes downhill into Campbelltown, big groups can come back."

Vine is enjoying an outstanding Santos tour debut, three years after he could not make the national team for the race.

He finished fifth overall the following month in Victoria's Herald Sun Tour, but his big breakthrough came later in 2020 during COVID-19 when he won the academy program with the popular virtual cycling platform Zwift.

That earned him a World Tour contract and he has gone from strength to strength, winning two stages last year at the Vuelta a Espana and then claiming this month's national time trial championship for the first time.

"It's pretty special. Some of the greatest Australian riders have worn the (leader's) jersey. One of my favourite riders, Richie Porte has won this race twice," Vine said of his latest achievement.

But Vine is taking nothing for granted with two stages left, including Sunday's summit finish at Mt Lofty that will end the tour.

"If there had been another three Corkscrews, it would have been fine, but there's a lot of road between here and Sunday evening," he said.

"Today was frickin' amazing fun, from start to finish."

Asked what he hopes to achieve after this week, Vine replied: "10 more years of career, that's for sure, and a bunch of exotic cars hopefully in the garage."

Previous race leader, Australian Rohan Dennis (Jumbo Visma), cracked on Corkscrew and finished one minute 24 seconds off the pace, his overall hopes gone.

Dennis had an ill-timed bike change earlier in the stage when his electronic gears stopped working and the effort he needed to rejoin the bunch cost him on Corkscrew.

Yates' Australian teammate Michael Matthews, whose overall hopes were dashed by a mechanical problem in stage two, led the bunch sprint for fourth place at 28 seconds.

Vine and Yates broke clear on the steep 2.3km Corkscrew climb in the Adelaide Hills and Bilbao bridged the gap to them.

They maintained their advantage in the 5.8km high-speed downhill run to the finish.

Italian Gianni Moscon (Astana) crashed and was forced out of the race with a suspected broken collarbone.