It was a superb start to the season for Team Sky, the reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race winner Peter Kennaugh as they took a 1-2 on the stage after escaping on the final climb 20 kilometres out from the finish. Kennaugh crossed the line first gesturing to Froome in thanks and with the win he also took the lead in the general classification.
Froome attacked after the pace had been picked up by Sky on the climb, immediately getting a gap, and when Kennaugh bridged over the pair worked together well to the finish, holding off a chasing group of three in Ben Dyball (KordaMenthe National Team), Jonothan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare) and Damien Howson (Orica-Greenedge). They eventually beat the peloton to the finish by 17 seconds, with Dion Smith (One Pro) celebrating as he lead the bunch home for third. Kennaugh talked to Peloton Caf? after the finish.
?We had a good plan for the stage and it just worked out absolutely perfectly. So the plan was to make it hard going into that last time for Froome to have a go and then I was just to follow wheels and judge the situation, if I felt I could jump across to him then I could do that. Massive thanks to the team and Froomey because once I got across to him I pretty much sat on his wheel all the way up the climb. Once we got over I was able to do some good turns and take it into the finish.?
Chris Froome was very happy to open up his season with a team victory and talked about why he worked for Kennaugh coming into the finish. ?The number of times he?s emptied himself out for me on the road, he?s been part of both my Tour de France victories, it?s nice to be able to do something for him now.?
The race started out with a 6 man move allowed to get away quickly, with Ben Hill (Attaque Team Gusto), Nick Katsonis (State of Matter/MAAP), Giacomo Berlato (Nippo Vini Fantini), Craig Evers (Data #3 Cisco), Alistair Slater (JLT Condor) and Kristian House (One Pro) working well together to push the gap out to a maximum of 3 minutes 55 seconds. The advantage went up and down as Drapac were doing a bit of work back on the front of the peloton to protect the yellow jersey of Will Clarke, with Sky committing a rider to help the chase as well. A nasty crash on Old Warburton Road after the KOM saw Lucas Hamilton (KordaMenthe National Team) and Patrick Sharpe (St George Merida) unfortunately having to abandon the race in pain.
The break was kept well in check, and proved easy for the peloton to catch on the Myer?s Creek climb, which began with 29.3 kilometres remaning, and crested with 20.5 kilometres left. At the base, Sky went to the front and set a hard pace, which saw the breakaway?s gap melt away, with the 1 minute 45 second advantage they had at the bottom of the climb meaning little as they were recaptured halfway up the ascent. The catch provoked further attacking riding, with the bunch splitting into small groups up the climb, with Froome then attacking out of the front group. Kennaugh initially watched for counter moves, before deciding to attack as well, and with the two Sky riders up the road and fully committed, it was going to prove very hard to bring them back. Behind them, a group of three formed; Dyball, Howson and Clarke, and they managed to limit the damage over the climb, with the gap at 25 seconds over the top, with the remnants of the peloton a minute down. They then brought the front two slowly back, and were within 15 seconds at one point on the descent, when Ben Dyball hit a pothole through a corner and dropped his chain, reducing the firepower of the chasers. With Dyball back in the chasing peloton, Clarke and Howson were soon swept up as well, but the two Sky riders stayed clear for a memorable 1-2, with Froome allowing his British national champion teammate Kennaugh to take the win.
Chris Hamilton (KordaMenthe National Team), 20, took the young rider?s jersey after his efforts in staying with the main bunch and good prologue result. Hamilton spoke to Peloton Caf? after the stage. ?I?ve always wanted to wear the white jersey, I?ve never won a young rider?s category before, so now would be a great time to do it. Hopefully I can do well, we have a really good bunch of guys for the national team, so I think we?ll do well together.?
Stage 2 will be a 144 km hilly stage from Yarra Glen to Moe, with a 1 kilometre climb near the final likely to be the springboard for a number of attacks. The plan will be for Sky to defend Kennaugh?s yellow jersey, with the stage winner saying,
?The next few stages are probably going to be sprint stages, and I think Orica will want to keep it together for Caleb, so it will come down to that last day (on Arthur?s Seat). I think that will suit me more than today, with the climb being shorter and more punchy.?
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Images copyright Con Chronis