It was a scorching hot day for the third stage of the Santos Women?s Tour a 4-lap circuit around Lyndoch for 100.8 kilometres total. With the mercury touching 38 Degrees for the day, it was always going to be a tough day in the saddle despite the relatively easy course. With Katrin Garfoot holding the leader?s jersey, the pressure was on Orica-AIS to defend it, as their DS Gene Bates explained before the stage.
?We really need to go out there and try and gain some time on those four riders up on GC (Kitchen, Olds, King and Cromwell) going into tomorrow. They?re all world class sprinters and we don?t want to be in the position where we have to match them. I don?t think it will necessarily be the course that creates the problems, it will be a combination of the wind, definitely the heat and the fact that you?ve got Europeans who?ve only come for a week, they?re not used to this, and hopefully that will break the race up later on. We?re going to have to wear the field down over time, and look for that last half hour to really finish it off.?
With the race setting off in the oppressive heat, it wasn?t a hot pace for the first 25 kilometre lap, with almost the entire peloton in contention for the first sprint point, with Sophie Mackay surprisingly opting to go hard for it, despite Lauretta Hanson holding an almost unassailable lead in the competition. Mackay finished first to slim the lead slightly, but Hanson finished second, and still has a comfortable lead in the category.
On the next lap, the first break of the day went with a solo attack from Erin Kinnealy (Nicheliving) getting a gap of up to 40 seconds before Orica-AIS put down the accelerator going up the KOM climb, and fractured the field. Kinnealy hung on to claim the KOM points, but the mountains jersey wearer Dani King (Wiggle High 5) was next over, to reclaim her lead immediately. With the pace hot to the top of the climb, a lead group of seven formed over the top. The group was a dangerous one, including Amanda SPRATT, Tayler WILES (both Orica-AIS), Tiffany CROMWELL (SASI), Kimberley Wells (High 5 Dream Team), Louisa Lobigs (Holden), Jo Hogan (Rush), Rosella Ratto (Cylance) and perhaps most notably Dani King (Wiggle High 5), who was sitting 3rd on GC and would win it if the break went all the way to the line.
With their main rider?Shelley OLDS missing the move, Cylance went to the front to shut the gap down. They gradually clawed the advantage back, which had reached a maximum of 40 seconds. When it became clear that the break would be caught, Amanda SPRATT launched an attack, making what would prove to be the most important move of the day as she struggled solo in the heat ahead of the peloton. Behind her, the original break was reabsorbed before another went away on the main climb, with this group quickly forming a big advantage on the peloton. With Spratt out front and 40 kilometres remaining, all Orica-AIS had to do was mark the move, and they had leader?s jersey wearer Katrin Garfoot and Lizzie Williams in the perfect spot to sit on and take advantage of the other members of the group, Lauren KITCHEN (Hitech Products), Danielle KING, Shelley OLDS and Tiffany CROMWELL.
With Cromwell and Kitchen doing a lot of work on the front to bring Spratt back, she was brought within striking distance with 15 kilometres remaining, and with the catch inevitable, Katrin Garfoot attacked to try and gap the rest of the riders by surprise. Olds, King and Williams were able to go with her initially, with Kitchen, Cromwell and Spratt catching back with the riders looking at each other.
With four kilometres left, Lizzie Williams launched the decisive attack, and after saving energy all day, she had plenty in the tank to take the win and even time to celebrate before she reached the line. Katrin Garfoot proved her earlier win was no fluke by again beating Kitchen and Olds to the line, with King crashing in the final kilometre, which appeared to hold up Cromwell. Williams spoke after her win.
?Oh, I?m very happy. We knew we had strong girls out there and could get the number. Spratty, she was a workhorse out the front there, dangling like a rabbit. She allowed us to sit on the whole, and ultimately that?s why I had the energy to go with four kilometres to go.?
Katrin Garfoot retained the leader?s jersey and appraised the race. ?By the time we caught Spratty on the climb, I was told to hammer it up there. It didn?t really work, as nobody wanted to work with me over the top and I had too many GC riders with me, so just waited till it all came back together. Lizzie got away and took out the win, we were hoping that she got the 40 seconds to take out the jersey, but unfortunately she just didn?t get there.?
Garfoot is displaying some top-notch sprinting legs at the moment, and today beat out Olds and Kitchen again this time in a head to head sprint.
?I?m very surprised with that, I think having the leader?s jersey always gives you a bit extra, and that?s what keeps me going. It?s good maybe I can start intimidating people with my sprint!?
The Santos Women?s Tour finishes with the 4th stage around the Victoria Park criterium circuit, a fast course which looks likely to finish in a sprint.
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