Mitchelton-Scott put a number of nails in the lids of the coffins of other contenders for the Jayco Herald Sun Tour 2020 by driving the pace at the front of the race in Stage 1.
While it was TIBCO-SVB that caused the race to split to pieces with a concerted attack on the flat roads to the west of Shepparton, it was Mitchelton-Scott who made the most of the situation, effectively eliminating Sarah Gigante (TIBCO-SVB) and Justine Barrow (Roxsolt-Attaquer) from the general classification battle. Arlenis Sierra (Astana) won the stage in a reduced bunch sprint.
With 40 kilometres remaining, the peloton began to fracture under the assault of TIBCO-SVB, but when the dust settled, it was Mitchelton-Scott who had the most to gain, with their entire squad of four at the front of the race. A content defending champion, Lucy Kennedy, spoke to the press after the race.
“Straight away you are just trying to make the split and make it happen,” said Kennedy. “Once we had the chance to look around, we realised that there were a few GC contenders that had missed the split and we were keen to make it stick.”
With just four riders taking the start after the whole team bar Amanda Spratt were caught up in the massive crash at the end of the Deakin University Cadel Evans Road Race, the Australian WorldTour team proved that quality was superior to quantity.
“We’re a small team but a mighty team,” said Kennedy. “At the finish, I think it was a 47 second gap. That’s definitely made a difference and it puts us in a strong position for tomorrow.”
Sarah Roy was making her comeback from iliac artery surgery and showed that she’s been making the most of her time away from racing as she provided a key effort when it looked like the second group on the road would rejoin the front split.
“Alejandro our DS was on the radio saying the group was closing in on us and it was definitely to our advantage to keep the time gap as there were a few climbers back there,” said Roy. “I went to the front and though ‘oh well, if I get dropped doing this effort the rest of the girls can get Lucy to the finish’.
“I just dug deep for a little bit there and the gap went out again. It didn’t hurt me too much and I stayed there to the end anyway.”
Roy’s full story is worth the read, but in brief she overcame years of nagging doubts about a debilitating condition that was preventing her from racing at her peak by getting a diagnosis and has been working hard to return to the peloton stronger than ever.
“It was really fun,” said Roy. “I enjoyed being back and Lucy did an amazing job as our leader today. I got to be her bodyguard as she was following me around all day. It was a no pressure, not much responsibility comeback, so that was awesome.
“I think it’s ideal for me coming here. Just to get in the swing of things, eating and drinking on the bike and think about what’s going on in the race at the same time. The sensations were good, just a bit of cramping in the hot weather but nothing I can’t fix. It’s been good.”
Kennedy was optimistic for tomorrow’s interesting stage that both starts and finishes in Falls Creek. She was asked how she’ll handle what looks like a tricky start to the stage on the long descent from the mountain top.
“Just stay safe and up near the front,” said Kennedy. “I’ve done that descent a few times, it’s pretty flowy, it’s a good road.
“The first QOM is on the descent, looking at the profile you’re like ‘really’? But it does rise up a bit there. I think it will definitely be decided on the way back up though.”
The big dangers appear to be an in-form Lauren Stephens (TIBCO-SVB), Jenna Merrick (NZ Vantage National Team) and Emily Herfoss (Roxsolt-Attaquer) with Gigante and Barrow going in with a 47-second handicap.
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Written by Jamie Finch-Penninger
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