Neil van der Ploeg Triumphs in Rainy Launceston

IMG_9255 Despite crashing twice, Neil Van Der Ploeg (Avanti Racing) has held off Steele Von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp) and Bernard Sulzberger (Drapac) to claim the Stan Siejka Cycling Classic in challenging Tasmanian conditions. Earlier in the day, Kimberley Wells (Roxsolt) overpowered Australian road national champion Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS) in a bunch sprint after a fast-paced criterium around the streets of Launceston. The heavens opened as the elite male race began, wreaking havoc on quick corners and causing numerous tumbles. After narrowly avoiding a crash in the opening stanza, Tour de France winner Chris Froome and his Team Sky colleague Richie Porte opted for safety over glory and withdrew. Without the two superstars drawing the spotlight, attention turned to the front of the race where National Road Series stalwarts Drapac Pro Cycling and Avanti Racing drove several breakaways. After some solo time on the front for local Wes Sulzberger, BMC-bound Campbell Flakemore (Avanti Racing) and Will Clarke (Drapac) got away with only a few laps to go. Yet when the two started to attack each other, they were swamped by the on-rushing peloton, and van der Ploeg sprinted home to take his second win of the Stan Siejka in three years. ?It was pretty amazing,? the 27-year-old admitted post-race. ?I?ve had a really good run at this race. I won a couple of years ago, second last year, and then first again this year. I couldn?t ask for much better.? van der Ploeg’s victory was particularly valiant, after the mountain bike regular crashed on two occasions. ?I really like these wet conditions, so I was quietly licking my lips. I actually binned it twice though, so that was not so good.? The slippery surfaces that led to those crashes also forced the withdrawal of Team Sky duo Froome and Porte. ?It gets a bit sketchy on the corners where guys are crashing everywhere, and the main thing for us was to stay safe,? Froome said. Second-placed Steele Von Hoff, who finished in the same position at Saturday?s kermesse, was sympathetic with the decision. ?It?s understandable. With the amount of crashes today it was difficult to hold position, so people were being forced to retire.? Earlier in the day under somewhat sunnier skies, Wiggle Honda and Orica-AIS began the woman?s race in ominous fashion, leading several breakaways. Recent Wiggle addition Eileen Roe spent time at the front of the race, but could not hold on and ultimately faded to third place as Wells and Elvin contested the sprint finish. ?That was a really really hard race,? Wells exclaimed after her victory. ?I was pretty isolated out the front with a lot of Wiggle and Orica, and they just kept attacking and attacking me. So I was very happy to make it to the end so I could unleash my sprint.?

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