Shannon Johnson Pips Steele Von Hoff in Launceston Kermesse

Richie Porte and Chris Froome might be in town, but it was Shannon Johnson (CharterMason Giant) who stole the show in Launceston, sprinting to victory ahead of Steele Von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp) at the Symmons Plains raceway. The 20-lap kermesse started uneventfully under sunny Tasmanian skies, before a six-man breakaway went up the road. Driven by National Road Series stalwarts Avanti Racing and Drapac Pro Cycling, the break managed to build a modest lead by the halfway stage of the race. Back in the peloton, all eyes were on Team Sky trio Richie Porte, Chris Froome and Nathan Earle as they comfortably rolled around a course more accustomed to seeing motor-driven than human-powered bikes. As the laps-to-go counter descended quickly, a spread-out main group increased their cadence, catching the break with four loops of the circuit remaining. Approaching the line for a bunch sprint, Johnson, Von Hoff and Will Clarke (Drapac) powered away to take the podium places, while Porte and Froome finished safely in the pack. ?It?s nice to beat those guys in a race,? Johnson declared after his win. ?But I?m pretty sure if we were riding up Mt Wellington I?d be a long way back!? Johnson had previously competed at Symmons Plains during his stint as a motorcycle racer, and told Peloton Cafe post-race that this experience helped in the final lap. ?I?ve raced SuperBikes around here three or four times ? it?s much easier when you can turn your right wrist and get the gas! It helped me a little bit, especially around the last few turns ? some of the guys were on the brakes where it?s not really necessary.? Aside from one brief attack, 2013 Tour de France winner Froome spent the race safely ensconced in the peloton. Despite this, the Kenyan-born British rider admitted the kermesse proved more challenging than expected. ?It was a hard race ? it has been a long time since I?ve been racing, so it?s good to be back into it again,? said Froome. ?I?ve just started training, so it?s a bit tough to suddenly go into race mode, but it?s good to be out here and I?m glad the weather played its part today.” Earlier in the day, Chloe HOSKING (Roxsolt Sydney Uni Velo) beat Eileen Roe (Wiggle Honda) and Loes GUNNEWIJK (Orica-AIS) to the line after their breakaway lapped the peloton. The three riders got away early, sharing duties on the front to build an imposing lead, and even the efforts of Australian Road National Champion Gracie ELVIN could not narrow the gap. The ToxFree Launceston Cycling Festival continues tomorrow with the Stan Siejka Criterium around the city streets.

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