The Western Australian finished in the front group to limit his losses and remain one second ahead of second-placed Patrick Bevin (Search2Retain).
An early mountain climb put the peloton under pressure and set the tone for the rest of the stage.
“There was a few attacks and it split up quite a lot on the KOM,” Ben explained. “Over the top there was only about 25 people left. Then it sort of eased up a bit and a lot more people came back on.”
Just after the next sprint point, a break of four riders went clear.
“We tried to get someone in there but all the other teams wouldn’t let us get into the break,” Ben said.
“We weren’t too concerned about the break getting away.”
Search2Retain and Team Budget Forklifts led the peloton for most of the stage, Avanti Racing Team stepping up to take control as the race approached the final climb.
“We rode into the bottom of the climb, but we all got sort of swamped, ’cause there’s a left-right into the climb and it was only me and Mitch [Lovelock-Fay] left,” Ben said. “I just tried to ride the climb as hard as possible, but ‘cause there was only Mitch left it wasn’t really what we planned.”
“The last bit of the climb I was struggling a little bit, and I was probably 10 metres off the back and Joe [Cooper] was still up the front with Bevin and Tim Roe (Team Budget Forklifts) and all the others – there was only about 10 or so riders there – and just before I got back on, Bevin has attacked and he got across to the second-last rider from the break that was still there [Michael Jaeger – Peloton Sports].”
Ben and teammate Joe finished in the main group, 10 seconds behind stage winner Jai Crawford (Drapac Pro Cycling), and crucially only a few seconds behind Patrick Bevin.
“They were I think only four seconds ahead of us at the end,” Ben noted, “but because of the time bonus he moved up to within a second of me on the overall now.”