Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS) soloed to victory in the 2nd edition of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, emerging the victor by 49 seconds as her teammate and defending champion Rachel Neylan beat out Dani King (Wiggle High 5) in the sprint for the podium. A mix of strength in numbers and tactics secured the win for the Australian national champion who credited the team?s strong start to the season to everything falling into place. ?It?s a dream start for the team to win all the races we?ve started, but the biggest highlight has been the way that everyone has been racing, everyone?s on form, we?re committing to a plan 100% and everyone?s been given opportunities too.?
That plan was to make the race hard from the outset, after the carnage in the crosswinds in last year?s edition, but benign wind conditions didn?t prove hard enough to force many splits in the peloton. Instead the hills were the main factor that broke up the race, with the Bells Beach Rd QOM providing a springboard for the first major attack of the day with Jessica Allen (High 5 Dream Team) jumping away to take the mountains award and show the team colours. Taryn Heather (BikeBug-Nextgen) bridged across after the road flattened out and the pair gained an advantage of just over 2 minutes.
Over the rolling hills on the run back into Geelong, Orica-AIS put the pace on which both drastically reduced the main bunch and eliminated the advantage of the leading duo. With the race well and truly on, it was the defending champion Rachel Neylan that attacked, with Chloe Hosking stuck on her wheel refusing to take turns on the front as a superior sprinter. Neylan exchanged some words with Hosking, but continued to push hard. With the race entering the final 20 kilometres, a group of riders bridged over to the leading pair on the back of a surge from Tiffany Cromwell (Boss), with Dani King, Amanda Spratt and Lauren Kitchen (Hog?s Breath Caf? Tinelli) making contact as well. Kitchen was soon dropped as the pace increased, then Cromwell fell back as she couldn?t sustain her earlier aggression. Spratt tried one attack, which was covered, before going again almost immediately, quickly building a 10 second advantage.
Behind her, Neylan was free to sit on, and Chloe Hosking has the main one working, trying to drag her teammate King into contention. On the final time up the Melville Avenue climb, Hosking made a last ditch attempt to try and bridge the gap to Spratt and she got to within 6 seconds of the green and gold jersey before fading back to King and giving her a few turns before pulling off and leaving King to try and shut down the move. Spratt?s gap yo-yoed from there on, coming back a little on the final climb, but she put down the power from there, and with King not able to keep up, Spratt had plenty of time to celebrate as she crossed the line. Spratt spoke after crossing the finish.
?The crowds here are absolutely amazing, I had goosebumps going down that finish straight there, bigger crowds than what we get to a lot of races in Europe. It was perfect, I think we were a little bit disappointed that the wind wasn?t strong enough at the start to split it in those crosswinds. Once we started the attacks, we were backing each other up the entire time, the field kept on whittling down, and in the end it was pretty much just a Orica-AIS and Wiggle High 5 battle. We got the better of them, I managed to escape, and then Rachel could play that card behind, and I knew that if it came back that she was going to be there and be strong. In the end it was pretty much a time trial between Dani King and I.?
For Neylan finishing second to complete the Orica-AIS one-two was almost as good an experience as her own victory last year.
?I am really emotional today, it?s a very sentimental race for me. It?s a wonderful to win a race solo like I did last year, and that set me up to get a ride on Orica. But I tell you what, the feeling today of doing what I did and contributing and setting up my teammate for the win, then being there into the final and sprinting into 2nd place, just putting everything into executing the perfect team plan, it does beat doing it on your own.? To share a race victory and a podium with such a special group of people where the feeling is so genuine and organically positive at the moment is very, very special.?
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