British national champion Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) soloed to a win in the hectic second running of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, launching from the peloton on the final lap and staying clear of the chasing peloton to take the win. None could hold the track gold medallist?s wheel as he surged away, and his strength proved adequate as he took a deserved win, with local favourite Leigh Howard (IAM) hitting his handlebars in frustration as he had to settle for 2nd after winning the bunch sprint, with Niccola Bonifazio (Trek-Segafredo) in 3rd.
With the wind looking like it would be a factor on the startline, it was a cautious peloton that tackled the early stages of the bike race, which contained a number of sections that might allow crosswinds to wreak havoc on the peloton. The expected carnage never eventuated, but the high pace on the front of the main bunch meant that it was a long time before the break was formed, with Pat Lane (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) launching an attack just after 25 kilometres into the race, with Adrian Hegyvary (UnitedHealthcare), Josh Berry (St George Merida) and Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) joining him soon after. Kristian House (One Pro) and Morgan Smith (Kenyan Riders Downunder) had missed the move, but battled over the next 20 kilometres to eventually bridge the gap to make an escape of 6 riders.
The break was allowed to get out to an advantage of 6 minutes 15 seconds, before Orica-Greenedge took control on the front, setting a steady pace to make sure the advantage wouldn?t get too big. That situation was maintained for the next stage of the race, with only the headwind on the road back into Geelong shortening the break?s advantage to 4 minutes. With the riders hitting the circuit for the first time, with 50 kilometres and two and a half laps remaining, De Marchi and Lane proved themselves the strongest of the break and set off by themselves off the front. Behind in the main bunch, the pace was on as well, with a significantly reduced peloton chasing the opportunistic attacks that tried to go off the front.
That dynamic and high pace meant that the break?s advantage quickly evaporated and on the second last lap Lane and De Marchi were caught. That prompted a series of attacks from a large number of riders, all trying their luck off the front, but no moves really stuck until Rafael Valls (Lotto Soudal) attacked off the front and was then joined by Cameron Meyer (Dimension Data) and Salvatore Puccio (Team Sky) to form the most dangerous move of the day. With the bell sounding for the final lap, signifying that there were 20 kilometres remaining, the front three had an advantage of 35 seconds, with BMC and Lotto NL-Jumbo leading the peloton, dragging them back into touching distance on the final ascent of Challambra Crescent. Valls proved the strongest of the front three, and set off alone, but Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) launched off the front of the peloton going solo and looking incredibly strong to stretch his gap quickly to 12 seconds after the climb. Up The Queens Park Rd climb, Kennaugh extended his lead further, and he continued to maintain it on the final climb of the course Hyland St. With an 18 second gap over the 6 kilometres were all that remained to the finish for the British national champion.
?On the second last lap on the last climb, I was away with a few guys and they were already all on their limit, and I still felt totally fine, so I gained a lot of confidence from that. Just going through the start/finish I was away in a group of four, but we could see from behind that a lot of guys were chasing, so the guys on the radio said to sit up. I just asked them to get me to the bottom of the climb, then I just went and didn?t look back.?
?I didn?t think I had the victory, but I thought there was a chance if it didn?t organise behind. With this British group we have we race really well together, just float round the peloton and find ourselves in the right place at the right time. I gained a lot of experience by racing here last year, it?s a very aggressive race, there?s not a lot of teamwork that goes on because the course is so hard. By the last lap, everyone?s on their knees, so it becomes hard to do anything as a team or bring guys back.?
That proved the case here, with Kennaugh having enough time to celebrate in the last hundred metres as he crossed the line six seconds ahead of the sprint for 2nd. Pat Lane?s day in the break was rewarded with both the mountains and sprints jersey, whilst 18-year old Michael Storer (Jayco) produced a superb ride to finish in the main group to take the young rider?s jersey.
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