Thomas retains lead Down Under

Geraint Thomas dug deep to retain the overall lead at the Tour Down Under as Tom Jelte Slagter took the win on stage three.

Thomas and Team Sky were able to defend the leader's Ochre jersey on a brutally tough stage in the Australian heat on an undulating circuit around Stirling.

At the finish there was a surprise winner in Slagter (Blanco Cycling), who held off his rivals on the uphill drag to the line.

Thomas narrowly missed out on bonus seconds at the line with fourth, yet maintained his five-second overall lead, while Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) rounded out the podium on the day.

In temperatures of up to 38 degrees, Team Sky spent the majority of the stage on the front, but were put to the test by numerous attacks.

After the finish, Thomas said: "It was pretty tough out there. A lot of guys started attacking us from three laps out so the boys had to ride really hard. They did an incredible job today. They set a fast tempo and I can't thank them enough.

"In the final [Mathew] Hayman was with me until about two kilometres to go and then after that I just had to follow the wheels. I couldn't manage a podium finish which would have been nice to get a few more seconds but it was a tough day so it's mission accomplished I guess."

With a new rival emerging in the now second-placed Slagter, Thomas added: "It's always going to be seconds in it and I think it's all going to come down to a big duel on Willunga on Sunday."