Chris Froome (Sky) lived up to his status as pre-race favourite when he took the leader’s jersey off the shoulders of his teammate Peter Kennaugh in the final stage of the Herald Sun Tour. After having gone for the KOM points, he suddenly found himself in a two-rider break and then made his race-winning attack on the final climb of Arthur’s Seat to comfortably hold off Damien Howson (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Jonathan Clarke (Unitedhealthcare). His time gains were enough to take the overall win ahead of teammate Kennaugh and Howson.
We have gathered several reactions.
Chris Froome: It is never easy to win a bike race
Chris Froome wrapped up overall victory at the Herald Sun Tour with a decisive solo victory on the final stage.
On the penultimate climb of Arthurs Seat the Brit jumped out from the Team Sky train which had controlled the queen stage, leading the race over the top and marking a dangerous move on the final lap.
With three kilometres to go the two-time Tour de France winner dropped the hammer and attacked, taking a rousing stage win by 17 seconds to seal the yellow jersey and overall victory.
Pete Kennaugh crossed the line in seventh to ensure it was a Team Sky one-two overall, with Froome's eventual winning margin being 29 seconds in Melbourne.
Team Sky rose to the challenge on the final day with Salvatore Puccio setting the pace on the first of three ascents of the famous climb. The peloton began to thin further as Ian Boswell and Sebastian Henao took turns.
Froome also wrapped up the King of the Mountains jersey on the day, accelerating each time on Arthurs Seat to take maximum points. The second pass saw Joseph Cooper (Avanti IsoWhey Sport) attack, with Froome sitting in behind as the pair opened out a gap.
After the race Froome said: "It's an amazing feeling. I put in a lot of hard yards this winter, which obviously hasn't been easy with a new family starting and everything back home. A massive thank you to my family for giving me the support I need to do this job.
"Also a massive thank you to the team. They gave me the all clear today, second time up Arthurs Seat. There was a little bit of an attack and I went for the King of the Mountain points and sat on the Avanti rider who attacked. The guys behind said "you're in a perfect place to win the stage, go for it Froomey."
Froome was quick to pay tribute to Kennaugh who led for much of the race. "He's an amazing rider," he added. "He's started the season off really well, winning Cadel's race. He had a good day today but he also gave me the all clear from behind. Massive thanks to Pete for doing that.
“I’ve worked really hard this winter so I am really grateful to be going well. I am seeing the results of some hard training this winter but this season is lining up to be one of the most eventful seasons of my career so far, give that it’s an Olympic year, given that I am going on to target a third Tour title. There’s a lot to race for this year and I think coming here and walking away with overall victory is an amazing way to start off the season.
"I got to admit going up that last climb there was a thought that it's probably three in the morning back home but chances are, my wife’s probably awake with my little boy watching or somehow keeping up to date. That was a pretty special feeling and definitely edged me to keep pushing on.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better week as a team with Pete kicking things off earlier on going into the leader’s jersey, first and second on that stage and then obviously winning today - the final stage up Arthurs Seat.
“It’s a really nice way to end off the week. Also to be first and second on the General Classification, you really couldn’t ask for much more.
“There’s a lot to race for this year. Coming here and walking away with the overall victory is an amazing way to start off the season.”
“It’s never easy. Even a day like today it’s never easy to win a bike race, even if you’re against people you don’t really know. You’ve got to turn yourself inside out for the result. As much as an eight-minute climb can hurt, it did.
"I think it’s a great race to come out to and I am surprised that more WorldTour teams aren’t doing the same. I imagine they probably will in the future.
“It’s definitely been worthwhile. I spent a bit of time over in Adelaide before coming over here. I did a good block of training there. We’ve been doing quite a bit of training after the stages here also just to get the miles in so it’s definitely been worthwhile in terms of the form and moving us forward and preparing us for the European season to come.
Disappointed Peter Kennaugh: Froome was the strongest rider in the race
Before heading onto the podium Kennaugh admitted there were mixed emotions after coming so close to winning, but pointed to a superb overall result for the team.
"It was 120km of pretty much flat-out racing all the way," said the Manxman. "It was tough and hot out there. I'm a bit gutted not to win. Froomey won and he was the strongest probably throughout the race anyway so he deserves the win. I'm really happy with a stage win and the way I've started the season. Happy days for Froomey today and happy days for the team all round.
"From a team perspective it worked out perfectly. Once Froomey got the King of the Mountains which was our aim he sat on (Cooper) and we just sat behind at 30 or 40 seconds to make sure he didn't take over my second on GC. Then I just protected my position all the way to the finish.
"Coming into the race, we always said it was possible to get a one-two. It would be really good to do with Froomey as leader and I was the back up GC. Although those roles changed a bit in the early part of the race, it finished in a perfect way."
Kennaugh admitted the result had been soured by a, “unfortunate” verbal altercation between himself and Avanti IsoWhey Sports’ Pat Shaw out on the road. The spat between two the riders continuing immediately after the stage finish.
"It's just a shame a little of the abuse I was getting in the peloton was really disheartening to be honest. It was really disgusting," he said.
“When our director said to ride on the last lap to keep it at 40 seconds to protect my second place on GC, he [Shaw] just came up to me laughing in my face, calling me 'a selfish c**t', 'I don’t know how you sleep at night'. Pat Shaw is his name. ‘I don’t know how you sleep at night', ‘You’re disgusting’, and all this.
"That’s sport I guess, it happens, but there is no need for it in the peloton.
"I went and confronted him after the stage, and he couldn’t even look me in the eye so a bit of a sour note to end on I guess," he said. "It’s good to sort it out. You can’t just speak to people like that on the bike. You wouldn’t walk up to people on the street and speak to people like that. You have to have respect for every person so I went and confronted him and he couldn’t even look me in the eye. His loss I guess.
"It happens every day fighting for position and obviously tensions are high and everyone is stressed but for it to get really personal like that, it is not very often. I don’t know where it came from, but there you go."
Avanti sports director explains Shaw-Kennaugh altercation
Shaw wouldn’t comment, leaving his sports director Andrew Christie-Johnson to speak on his behalf. He confirmed that the war-of-words had been a running battle beginning at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
"The situation with Peter all week is that we’ve had a few incidents on the road with him. One day when we were just trying to position the boys up along side, he basically got stuck in to the guys saying that they shouldn’t be there," Christie-Johnston said.
"We have what I’d say a hot head in Pat Shaw and they have a hot head in Peter Kennaugh and at the end of day when two hot heads start tackling each other, you don’t get a good response from either. They’ve been blueing all week and that was the heat at the end of the week. Words have been exchanged all week about it. At the end of it, they’ll walk away with nothing really to it other than a blue you’d have in a schoolyard, and that’s the way it is really.
"Avanti got head-butted by Kennaugh and he’s responded to that throughout the week and as I said, that happens. It’s racing. When people are trying to hold their ground, they often use their head.
“There’s nothing to it other than it’s a blue that you’d have in a school yard and that’s the way it is. There was nothing more than what Kennaugh had said to two or three of our riders over the other days. Froomey acknowledged that they’ve got someone who’s a bit of a hothead and at the same time, so do we.”
Proud Damien Howson confirms potential with third place at the Sun Tour
On the final day of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, 23-year-old Damien Howson had the ride of his life to finish second place on the stage, subsequently moving him up into third overall in the general classification.
ORICA-GreenEDGE headed into the day with it all to play for. Rounding up their Australian summer campaign in fine style finishing third (Howson) and fifth (Jack Haig) overall.
Howson finished the stage only 17 seconds down on the overall race winner Chris Froome (Team Sky.) As the peloton headed up the climb for the final time, Froome had an advantage of 27 seconds back to the peloton as Howson launched his attack at the bottom of the tough iconic climb and was able to take his first podium for the team.
"This stage in particular is alway standout in the tour," explained Howson after the race. "It pretty much comes down to who's got the best legs on the last lap. Team Sky took control of the race today and it took until us the last lap to open it up and see if we could break them."
"My team-mate Jack Haig was sitting comfortably behind with the yellow jersey wearer, so it was a matter of trying to wear down the team (Sky) and also take my own chances, knowing that if it all came back that Haig was ready to pounce.
"Im really happy to finish off the week third overall. It was a target for myself and the team, so to fulfil that I'm really proud. This is my first podium since I have been with ORICA-GreenEDGE after a string of fourth places."
After one victory and two second place finished, the team concluded their race with a spot on the podium. Sport director Matt Wilson was happy with the teams performances and their success throughout the Australian summer.
"After the first day we saw how strong Team Sky was, so it was a battle just to try and get on the podium on this stage but thats what we were hoping for.
"I'm very happy with the day, Damien took his chance as we had discussed before the start, and credit to Jack as he stuck with the team plan so it worked out really well in the end. Its been a very successful summer for us here in Australia."
Disappointed Bobridge misses Sun Tour podium by three seconds
The battle for the final podium all came down to the last of three ascents of Arthur's Seat.
Jack Bobridge crossed the line in 8th place, 36 seconds behind the stage and overall winner Chris Froome (Sky), seemingly with enough time to hold his third overall in the Jayco Herald Sun Tour - except for the time bonus at the finish.
Damien Howson (Orica-GreenEdge) followed 17 seconds after Froome and grabbed the six-second bonus that allowed him to leapfrog Bobridge onto the final podium step - by a mere three seconds.
Peter Kennaugh (Sky) slipped from first to second place, still giving Sky a one-two finish, as Bobridge knocked down a spot to fourth.
"It was a fast start to the race and the team rode fantastic – they did everything possible," said Bobridge. "Then on the last climb I tried to cover most the moves, but I was covering fourth place in the end. Maybe I covered Jack Haig too much and Damien Howson got away and we lost the podium by 3 seconds. That's bike racing. You can't cover everybody, you can only be so strong. We tried 100%."
The 121.8-kilometer final stage began with Fumy Beppu attacking early on to create the day's key breakaway of four riders. The peloton allowed the quartet to gain two and half minutes before bringing them to a more manageable gap of a minute.
Beppu, sensing the breakaway was on a slow spiral downward to an inevitable demise, jumped away at the second bonus sprint and caused a reshuffling: two fresh legs joined as two tired legs were left behind, leaving four riders out front again.
But Team Sky was keen on making the race hard, and at the bottom of the first of three ascents up Arthur's Seat with 35 kilometers to race, the breakaway was tagged. Fumy Beppu won the most combative award, a nice recognition for his effort out front.
"It's been a long time since I have been in a breakaway situation," said Beppu. "My plan was to give everything today since it's the last day of the race. After the second sprint, I was solo for a bit, and Kim [Andersen, director] came to me and said some riders were coming from behind. So I joined with them, and I was hoping that we could make it over the climb the first time, but the peloton was coming fast and caught us at the bottom.
"But anyway, I gave everything. I am happy with my condition, and it was good to be in the break – I don't get many chances. Hopefully, it allowed the team to sit back and relax a bit behind."
Sky set a rapid pace up Arthur's Seat, and on the second ascent, Froome and Joseph Cooper (Avanti) created a gap over the top. Sensing an opportunity, Cooper put his head down and pulled Froome around the final lap, hoping desperately to gain enough time to move onto the podium. However, it did little more than help launch Froome to the overall victory.
Julien Bernard aided the chase and the peloton steamrolled over Cooper on the lower slopes while Froome danced away to the stage and overall win.
Immediately, Orica-GreenEdge began launching attacks until Howson broke free and took off in pursuit to grab second on the stage and with it a decisive six-second time bonus, enough to push his way onto the final podium step.
It was a heartbreaker for Bobridge – and the team – who rode superbly all week.
ONE Pro Cycling in the top 10 at the Herald Sun Tour
After four days of top performances from the team, Richard Handley, Kristian House, Joshua Hunt, Dion Smith, James Oram and Steele Von Hoff lined up on the start line one last time for Stage 4, also known as the queen stage due to the difficult nature of the course.
Following a course review the decision was made to ride for Dion Smith the highest ranking team member on the General Classification with the aim of securing his overall position.
Similarly to previous stages there were a lot of attacks early on, from riders attempting to breakaway. It wasn’t until after 24km that a break actually stuck and a small group left the peloton to gain a maximum advantage of 2 minutes 21 seconds. In a decisive move ONE Pro Cycling didn’t place anyone in the break, instead they focused on protecting Dion Smith. Sky took to the front of the group, riding an intense pace with the intention of setting up Chris Froome going into the first of three gruelling laps of the finishing circuit and steep climb up Arthur’s Seat.
The intense pace set by Sky meant the break was caught after approximately 70km to go. A smaller breakaway formed but was quickly closed down in the run up to Arthur’s Seat where a group of ONE Pro Cycling supporters cheered from Factor Corner.
On the first lap of the finishing circuit, Sky continued to increase the tempo, stretching the peloton. The boys had a plan each time up the climb to protect Smith and Oram with each rider from the team contributing to the pace setting to keep our GC hopes alive. Froome (Sky) and Cooper (Avanti) attacked over the top of Arthurs seat on the second lap staying away for the remainder of the race giving it everything on the descent to ensure the peloton wouldn’t catch. Descending the climb House was caught in a crash in the race convoy but quickly re-mounted to join the peloton and go straight to the front to resume riding for Smith. Chris Froome sat on the rider from Avanti only to attack on the third and final ascent. ONE Pro Cycling got organised and set themselves set up to support Dion Smith, delivering him into the last climb where he finished 10th on the stage and 10th overall with James Oram finishing 16th overall having worked hard in the lead out.
Successful debut for Team Novo Nordisk neo-pro at the Sun Tour
All of Team Novo Nordisk’s six-man squad completed their first Jayco Herald Sun Tour when the five-day race ended on Sunday.
“There were no breaks today. We went full gas down every descent immediately followed by a hard ascent. It was hot and it was hard,” Team Novo Nordisk’s Brian Kamstra (NED) said. “This past week has been my first official week of racing with Team Novo Nordisk as a professional and I feel proud that I finished as the team’s top GC rider.”
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