Devenyns takes out true classic edition of Cadel Evans race

Credit: Getty Images/Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

Dries Devenyns (Deceuninck-QuickStep) weathered strong winds and aggressive racing to emerge as the winner of the 2020 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in a two-up sprint against Pavel Sivakov (Team INEOS), with Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) leading a small group over the line to claim third.

Devenyns was the only one who was able to bridge over to a late move from Sivakov from an elite selection formed on the final lap of the Geelong circuit and was able to sprint clear at the end of the 171 kilometre race.

“It’s a very special day for me,” said Devenyns. “I like this race a lot, every year I make a good effort, last year for Viviani.”

“We went into the final pinch, Keukeliere attacked and I also tried, then after the climb on the flat part, Pavel (Sivakov) took off, with van Baarle (Sivakov’s INEOS teammate) behind, so it was a moment to try and go.”

“I also didn’t want to wait for the sprint as McCarthy, Impey they have a better sprint than myself. If I was to play for the win it was ahead of them. I gave myself a 50-50 chance, I don’t know how good a sprinter he is, but normally a good climber has a less good punch.”

Devenyns has finished fourth at the race in the past, and normally reserves some good form for his trips to Australia, finishing twelfth or better in the general classification at the Tour Down Under for the past three season. The 36-year-old put that down to a combination of the conditions and his Deceuninck-QuickStep squad.

“I like it, yes, I like even more when the heat is on,” said Devenyns. “Though this year it was less warm but I like to come here.”

“We really have a team of riders that want to win, more than other teams it seems to me. Every time we go out and try to win.”

The race itself proved to be an exciting edition of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. Connor Leahy, Rudy Porter and Carter Turnbull (all KordaMentha Australian National Team) made an ambitious move early in the race, setting up a mini team trial against the peloton in the early part of the course.

The move wasn’t to last however, as Team INEOS put the hammer down in the crosswinds and threatened to eliminate a big chunk of the peloton, including the last two year’s winners Elia Viviani (Cofidis) and Jay McCarthy (BORA-hansgrohe). The gap between the two main groups threatened to blow apart, but as the peloton turned into a headwind section Cofidis brought the second group back into contact with the main bunch.

With 140 kilometres to go, Turnbull and Elliot Schultz (both Kordamentha) renewed the aggression off the front of the race as the peloton backed off the pace, going clear and quickly building up an advantage that ballooned out to 6’30 with 110 kilometres left to race. Lotto Soudal came to the front of the race to control the tempo, quickly reducing the gap to the escaped duo.

Teams flooded to the front with 84 kilometres left picking up the tempo, causing splits in the race with a large group falling off the back of the peloton. Things calmed down as the riders reached the key climb of Challambra and the first attempt at the 19 kilometre course around Geelong.

The pace slowed within the main bunch allowing the breakaway duo of Turnbull and Schultz to scoop up the mountains and sprint classifications respectively.

Jonas Rutsch (EF Education First), Alex Cataford (Israel Start up Nation),  Fabian Lienhard (Groupama-FDJ), Kiel Reijnen (Trek-Segafredo) and Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R La Mondiale) attacked off the front of the race with 40 kilometres  remaining, only building a small lead on the Cofidis-led peloton.

Mitchelton-Scott hit the front of the race the penultimate time up Challambra Crescent, forcing an injection of pace into the race, and thinning down the bunch dramatically. It established an elite selection, although defending champion Viviani and Ewan remained in the move as sprint dangermen.

The group consolidated their advantage over a NTT Pro Cycling-led peloton going through the finish line for the final lap with a 40 second advantage.

Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) attacked on the final ascent of Challmabra, with Dries Devenyns (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Impey, Sivakov, Jay McCarthy (BORA-hasngrohe), Jens Keukeliere (EF Education First) and Dylan van Baarle (Team INEOS) all present. A flurry of attacks continued over the remaining kilometres, with attack being met by counter-attack.

Sivakov launched the winning move, jumping away with six kilometres remaining, gaining a big gap before Devenyns tried to bridge across solo.

Impey, McCarthy and Keukeliere appeared to work well together, with van Baarle sitting on behind with his teammate in front, occasionally disrupting the pace-making of the chasers. Devenyns joined Sivakov at the front of the race, with the pair cooperating to the finish line where Devenyns’ sprint proved superior in the dash to the line.

In the final kilometres, the chasers appeared to be catching the leaders but Keukeliere failed to go through within two kilometres and a frustrated Impey was stuck on the front having to save himself for the sprint and drive the pace simultaneously. Impey won the sprint at the end, to claim his third consecutive third-placed finish at the race.

“I knew they were going to sit me for a while,” said Impey. “I could see it, but I didn’t wait to drag them to five hundred metres to go and get hit over. I tried to keep it close but the guys didn’t want to work and I had to gauge my effort. In the final you could see I think they were pretty empty as well.”

“I was all going perfect until we lost Yatesy on that last climb. I was looking around waiting for the faster guys to do some work but I think they were pretty pinned there. It’s a shame we didn’t work together properly at the end as I think I had the best legs of the guys there. Third place… again, three out of three.”

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Written by Jamie Finch-Penninger