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Cycling BMC's Rohan Dennis stunned the big guns in stage three of the Tour Down Under

A late surge from Rohan Dennis upset the leading contenders for the Tour Down Under on Thursday's third stage.

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Australian Rohan Dennis stunned the Tour Down Under's overall favourites, including BMC team-mate Cadel Evans, to win stage three on a steep finish into Paracombe.

The victory took Dennis to the top of the general classification standings, replacing overnight leader and compatriot Jack Bobridge (Uni SA).

Dennis is seven seconds ahead of Evans - who is in the final month of his professional career - while Thomas Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) is two seconds further back overall.

With one kilometre remaining of the 143.2km stage from Norwood to Paracombe on Thursday, it appeared the day would be decided in a head-to-head battle between Evans and Team Sky's Richie Porte.

Both are considered leading candidates to win the Tour Down Under's ochre jersey and were left at the front of the race alongside Dumoulin and Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R-La Mondiale).

But as that quartet watched each other, they allowed the group they had just left behind to catch up, and as the riders came together Dennis pounced.

The 24-year-old Australian from BMC - silver medallist in the Commonwealth Games time trial last year - showed impressive power over the last 500 metres to claim the honours ahead of Evans and Dumoulin.

That trio was followed by Porte, who is one of six riders 15 seconds adrift of Dennis.

That group also includes Jack Haig (Uni SA), Ruben Fernandez (Movistar), Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), Maxime Bouet (Etixx-Quickstep) and Pozzovivo.

A breakaway group of four - William Clarke (Drapac), Lasse Hansen (Cannondale-Garmin), Axel Domont (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Calvin Watson (Trek) stayed away until around 40km left on Thursday.

Domont was dropped first, followed by Hansen and Watson in the final 20km, with Clarke reeled in at the 8km mark.

On the final ascent into Paracombe, Porte was the most active, attacking twice, which prompted responses by Evans, but no-one had an answer when Dennis surged.

The former Garmin-Sharp cyclist was part of BMC's triumphant group that claimed gold in the team time trial at the UCI Road World Championships late last year.

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