A relatively short stage race like the Tour Down Under provides very little opportunity for the contending riders to gain enough precious seconds to win the race. The climbs are simply not long enough to break up the peloton and traditionally, most of the stages come down to group sprint finishes. This is why KOM (King of the Mountains) and Intermediate Sprint bonus seconds are so important in short stage races. This is also why someone like Lance Armstrong won’t typically win a race like this. He needs some big mountains and long time trials to put time into his competitors (this is why the TdF favors him).
At the Tour Down Under, a stage win will get you time bonuses (4 seconds I think?). However, an Intermediate Sprint will get you 3 sec, 2 sec, and 1 sec for 1st, 2nd, 3rd. KOM time bonuses are 8 sec, 6 sec, 4 sec, and 2 sec. This makes the race much more interesting and the riders race more aggressively to gain these seconds. Intermediate Sprints and KOM time bonuses are much easier to get than a stage win for most riders shooting for the GC win.
BUT , there’s also a race within this race. The Sprint Jersey and Mountains Jerseys are highly regarded titles. There are specialist riders trying to get the points awarded (not bonus seconds) for the sprints and Mountains Jersey. So, while there are GC riders desperately trying to gain the bonus seconds by winning or placing in the intermediate sprints and mountains, there are also riders who have no interest in the General Classification win who are trying to get these points for the Sprint and KOM titles .
If you’re following the race, you can clearly see O’Grady picking away at all these bonus seconds. He picked up 11 seconds in yesterday’s stage (stage 3) by placing in the Finish, and various KOM and Intermediate Sprints. Now he’s only 5 seconds off GC (and as a result will likely win the Points Competition as well).
I’m TIPPING that Stuey will take the overall GC. Thoughts?