Orica-AIS?s Gracie ELVIN began the sunny, breezy day in the yellow jersey as the leader of the Michelton Bay Cycling Classic, as the women rolled out to contest the 1.9 kilometre circuit around the Eastern Gardens Park Circuit. With the likes of Kimberley Wells (High 5 Dream Team) and Valentina SCANDOLARA on the startline, it wasn?t just going to be a ride in the park for the World Tour team to maintain their lead.
It was a fairly quiet start to proceedings, with Orica-AIS controlling the pace and little happening to establish moves off the front. Eventually the accord was broken, with Amanda SPRATT joining two riders from the Novotel Geelong-Japan squad, UWANO Minami and Nakamura Kisato. That was the most dangerous move of the early stages, but it was brought back, and the following counterattacks saw Julie Leth and Lizzie Williams break clear and establish a 10 second gap which held steady for a number of laps off the front.
With two and a half laps remaining Valentina SCANDOLARA (Ale Cycling), Amanda SPRATT (Orica-AIS) and Jessica Mundy (High 5 Dream Team) bridged across to the front two on the climb on the back half of the circuit with another rider to form a six-person leading group, which shaped as the most dangerous move of the day. Scandolara would be expected to win the sprint between those riders on a regular basis, so the other teams had the onus upon them to chase the break. With the quality of the riders present, it had to be shut down immediately, and it was, mostly by Orica-AIS and High 5 Dream Team, coming together as the bell was rung for the final lap.
It was hard and fast through final lap, with the race strung out by the Orica-AIS sprint train, in a more organised form than the previous stage, but Kimberley Wells attacked on the climb into the home straight, catching the peloton off-guard, and managed to hold off a charging Elvin to take the win by less than a bike length. Sarah Roy (Orica-AIS) was a little behind in 3rd, with a further gap to Scandolara and a superb Julie Leth, who capped off a strong showing in the break to sprint for 5th. Kimberley Wells described the action of the day to Peleton Cafe.
?It?s always a tough day out at the Botanic Gardens, it?s the sort of course that can end up in a breakaway or a sprint. I really had to judge how today was going to pan out, assess the wind and the course, and work out how best to use to use my strength to beat the other teams. We had the numbers out there to represent and follow a lot of moves, so we had a lot of riders that could play a part. Ultimately, it came down to a bunch sprint? over the climb the Orica team were lining it up for a sprint, and I took the jump on them. It was a headwind sprint, you tend to want to wait longer with a headwind, but I just didn?t want a repeat of yesterday when Orica got one up on me.?
Wells? celebratory bellow during her post up was proof of how much the victory meant to her, and she hopes to build on that form for the upcoming races. ?They (the Bay Crits) always start the year off with a bang, they?re such an iconic race that everyone loves to take part in, and it really sharpens the sword for nationals. We?ll have to see how the legs respond, but I?m excited for the crit in Ballarat (National Criterium Championships), and the road nationals!?
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