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In a crash-marred bunch sprint, Ewan took his first pro win by holding off von Hoff and Witmitz; Meyer finished safely in the peloton to defend his overall lead

Photo: Con Chronis

CAMERON MEYER

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HERALD SUN TOUR

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MITCHELTON-SCOTT

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STEELE VON HOFF

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06.02.2015 @ 14:05 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After his near-miss at the Australian National Championships, Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) took his first pro win when he emerged as the fastest in the bunch sprint on the second stage of the Herald Sun Tour. In a crash-marred finale, he held off Steele Von Hoff (Australia) and Sam Witmitz (Budget Forklifts) while his teammate Cameron Meyer avoided the carnage and defended his overall lead.

 

In the early part of the season, Caleb Ewan showed great condition when he won three of the four races in the Mitchelton Bay Classics series but the Australian came up short in the first pro races of his neo-pro season. Much was expected from him when he lined up as the Orica-GreenEDGE sprinter in the Herald Sun Tour and today he delivered on his promises when he opened his professional account by winning the first bunch sprint of the race on the second day.

 

Ewan was well-protected by his teammates who took control inside the final kilometre and gave him the perfect position for the final turn with 400m to go. From there, he launched his impressive power and he easily held off Steele von Hoff to take the second Orica-GreenEDGE win in a row.

 

The finale was marred by a big crash when Samuel Witmitz and Brenton Jones (Drapac) tangled, with the latter hitting the deck hard. Witmitz managed to stay upright to finish third while Jones slid across the line and so ended the stage in fifth.

 

Earlier in the day, Orica-GreenEDGE had been under pressure as it seemed that all teams wanted to go on the attack. The Australian team had a hard time controlling the situation before they finally allowed three riders to get clear after 42km of racing.

 

With Tyler Farrar (MTN-Qhubeka) and William Clarke (Drapac) in the move, the group had plenty of firepower but as UnitedHealthCare and the Australian national team combined forces to bring them back, it all came down to the expected bunch sprint. Here Orica-GreenEDGE came back to the fore to deliver Ewan to the win.

 

Race leader Cameron Meyer managed to finish safely in the peloton and so he defended his four-second lead over Joe Cooper (Avanti). He takes that into tomorrow’s penultimate stage which is almost completely flat but has a big climb at its midpoint. Like yesterday, it could turn out to be a pretty dramatic affair but there is also a chance that a regrouping will take place and that Ewan will get another chance to shine in a bunch sprint.

 

One for the sprinters

After the surprisingly dramatic first stage, the sprinters were finally expected to get their chance on day two which took the riders over just 1236.km from Bendigo to Nagambie. The terrain was rolling but with only a single categorized climb, it was expected that it would all come down to a bunch sprint.

 

A parade lap around Bendigo’s iconic Tom Flood Velodrome began today’s stage, but with the top 21 General Classification riders essentially already decided, plenty of teams were keen to test themselves.

 

An attacking start

Craig Evers (Data #3 Symantec), Joel Strachan (Navitas Satalyst) and Josh Edmondson (Great Britain) were the first riders across the first sprint point after 5.7km. With the prime out of the way, skirmishes began at the head of the peloton.

 

The teams which missed out on the break yesterday, African Wildlife Safaris, Data #3, CharterMason and JTL Condor, were active on the front as they attempted to get their riders clear. However, Avanti and Orica-GreenEDGE did a lot of work to keep things under control as big 20-30 rider groups got clear on a number of occasions.

 

Moses gets clear

Tom Moses (JLT) got a small gap but at the 20km mark, he was brought back. Next it was a 3-rider move that got an advantage but they had no luck either.

 

A 13-rider group briefly looked as it could make the difference but that move was also shut down. After 42km of racing, the elastic finally snapped.

 

 

Clarke makes his move

With just one KOM on the menu today, breakaway specialist Will Clarke (Drapac) made his move as the road began to crest taking MTN-Qhubeka’s Tyler Farrar and Mike Cuming (JLT Condor) with him.

 

Farrar took maximum points on offer, followed by Cuming and Clarke. The Cat.3 climb did not affect the lead of Robert Power (Jayco-AIS Australian U23 National Team) in the Budget Forklifts King of the Mountain Classification.

 

The gap grows

The effort went some of the way to Farrar earning the day’s Subaru Orange jersey for the most aggressive rider. A sprinter, Farrar decided today might be the day to play the long game in a bid for a stage win.

 

At the top of the climb, the riders were 1.19 ahead of the peloton which didn’t give them much leeway. They brought it back down to 50 seconds before they finally took a small breather, allowing the gap to reach a maximum of 2.49.

 

Cuming gets dropped

Farrar beat Cuming and Clarke in the final intermediate sprint but at that time Australia and Unitedhealthcare had started to work. The gap now started to come down and this forced the escapees to ride a lot harder.

 

That was too much for Cuming who dropped back to the peloton while Farrar and Clarke tried to keep the break alive. With 25km to go, they were still 1.18 ahead but they were constantly losing ground.

 

With 10km to go, they were brought back by a hungry peloton who were eager to get it all decided in a bunch sprint. Orica-GreenEDGE waited perfectly to make their move before they hit the front and delivered Ewan to the win.

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