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Ewan sprints to second stage victory, Porte retains lead

ADELAIDE (Reuters) - Australia's Caleb Ewan held off world champion Peter Sagan in a bunch sprint to claim his second stage victory in the 2017 Tour Down Under on Thursday as Richie Porte finished in the pack to retain his overall lead.

The 22-year-old Orica-Scott sprinter did well to avoid a high-speed crash in the closing stages of the 144-km run from Glenelg to Victor Harbor and had too much pace for Sagan in the race to the line and won, sitting up, by two bike lengths.

Porte will start the fourth stage, from Norwood to Campbelltown, with a 20-second advantage over Spain's Gorka Izagirre, who was sent sprawling in the crash but did not lose any time as it took place inside the final three kilometers.

Ewan's Orica-Scott team mate Esteban Chaves remains in third place, a further two seconds adrift of the leader, who has suffered enough misfortune in the past to know his advantage could be wiped out in the blink of an eye.

"There's so much to lose on a stage like this and not a lot to gain," Tasmanian Porte, who is searching for a first Tour Down Under victory after two previous second-place finishes, told reporters.

The early part of the stage saw a four-man breakaway led by Thomas de Gent build a four-minute advantage over the peloton, with the Belgian scooping up intermediate sprint and king of the mountain points before they were all reeled in with 6 km left.

The six-stage race around South Australia is the first event on the 2017 UCI WorldTour calendar and concludes in Adelaide on Sunday.