Credit: Getty Images/Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race
Liane Lippert (Team Sunweb) triumphed in Geelong after miserable conditions and a large crash slightly marred the Deakin University Women’s Race, with the German taking the win solo after attacking in the final kilometres of the race.
In the first Women’s WorldTour race held on Australian soil, Lippert soloed in ahead of defending champion Arlenis Sierra (Astana) who took out a reduced sprint ahead of Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) with Tayler Wiles fourth. The remnants of the bunch weren’t too far behind, with Lean Kirchmann (Team Sunweb) leading the larger group home for fifth.
A crash had seen the peloton drastically reduced in size with 20 kilometres to go with the majority of the field either crashing or being caught behind the fall.
Team Sunweb riders swamped Lippert after the finish, and the young German star with the win taking the leader’s jersey in the overall Women’s WorldTour standings.
“It’s amazing, I still can’t believe that I won my first WorldTour race and I’m now in this jersey,” said Lippert. “It was so emotional, I really still can’t believe it and the team came and were so happy for me.”
Lippert came into the race off the back of her second-placed finish at the Tour Down Under, and found comforting conditions in Geelong as the heavens opened up and the temperatures dropped.
“I was really confident going into the race and the whole team had a lot of trust in me,” said Lippert. “I did a risky attack, because it’s so long, especially when you are alone. I felt really strong, I kept on going and I made it.”
“Our team went in with big motivation for the race. We knew it was going to be raining and windy, we tried to open some echelons. Everyone was ready for it, it’s better than 40 Degrees the day before.”
“I had a really good look through the course before already. I’m really explosive and can do efforts like this pretty good, three minutes full gas. I knew that I’d end up alone or with one or two riders, I ended up alone, it was ok because I could handle it into the finish line.”
Maaike Boogaard (Ale BTC Ljubljana), Jade Wiel (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitane Futuroscope), Silvia Valsecchi (BePink), Madeleine Wright (Roxsolt-Attaquer), Minke Bakker (Dolctini-Van Eyck) formed the early breakaway, toiling their way into a strong headwind in the early stages of the 121 kilometre course.
The peloton seemed content to let them go free, with the group of five gaining a maximum advantage of 4’20. The teams ramped up the pressure with just over 40 kilometres remaining until the finish in Geelong. The section of the course heading out to Torquay and Bells Beach had proven relatively mild, but the rain picked up heading back to the finish line.
With the climbs of Challambra Crescent and Melville Avenue expected to be key points for attackers, the peloton set a blistering pace to set their protected riders up for the punchy climbs. A large crash was the result of the fast pace, with a large part of the peloton coming down, or being held up by the crash in the slippery conditions with about 20 kilometres left to run.
The coverage of the race was limited to spotty coverage from Robbie McEwen’s phone sending through video, so reports of the action were sketchy in the poor weather. The helicopter relaying images had to set down before the finish, meaning coverage of the race was virtually nil. Amanda Spratt took the assembled media through the final kilometres.
“You missed all the best bits I’d say,” Spratt said. “We turned at kilometre 97 into a crosswind and the pace started going up and up there.
“We started going through the two rollers to Challambra, we knew it was going to be hectic and on the really fast downhill there was a crash that only 25 or so riders. I’m not sure exactly what happened at this point. We did come up to a fast left-hander and it’s possible that someone slid out. It was so fast there was no avoiding it if it happened in front of you.
“It was a bit surreal to start with and I realized that I was the only one from my team left here, I had to play it smart.”
Isolated and facing a series of hard climbs, there was little sense in Spratt attacking solo and having the teams combine to bring her back.
“Sunweb had basically their whole team, Trek had a few riders left,” said Spratt. “We went up Challambra, it split but then it came back together on the bridge going into that final climb (Melville Avenue) and that’s where Liane (Lippert) attacked really hard from behind.
“I missed that jump, I’m a bit annoyed actually, but I missed the jump and had to wait for a while to get out of the bunch and try and get across to her. I couldn’t manage it but then I had Tayler Wiles for company.
“Tayler and I were chasing really hard from behind to get across, then Arlenis Sierra jumped across from behind. The three were working to bring Liane back, but she was too strong at the end.
Spratt adds the third-placed finish to her stage win and third overall at the Tour Down Under and her national road race title in Buninyong.
“I’m happy with this third place finish,” said Spratt. “I was really outnumbered there when the crash happened, there were five Sunweb and three or four Trek. It was up to them to make the race and I had to use my energy wisely.”
Sierra was the fastest finisher in the chasing group and duly took out the dash for second, with Spratt grabbing third in front of Wiles.
A number of riders were taken to hospital in ambulances, 24 riders failed to finish the race with no further news currently on their condition.
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Written by Jamie Finch-Penninger
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