January 04, 2017 0 Comments
Early 2017 sees much of the pro peloton - male and female - head to the Antipodes for some pre-season action. In particular, the leading riders will be taking on the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and the Santos Tour Down Under - plus of course the locals will be competing in the Australian National Road Race Championships.
Laura Fletcher of thepelotonbrief.com has headed Down Under to get a sense of the early season form and report back for Conquista. She begins her Down Under Diaries with the 2017 Bay Crits - starting on New Year's Day, no less.
Below you can find Laura's complete race report. But first, lest it be felt that the racing action were perhaps a little underwhelming at this early stage of the season, here are her top ten facts about these little-known races.
BAY CRITS: TOP TEN FACTS
BAY CRITS: RACE REPORTS
Geelong: Stage 1
It’s the first race of the season, a tester for the legs before the National Championships, and for many a new kit or new team parade. The infamous course, with tight corners around the beach front esplanade, is notorious for starting the new year with a bang (or maybe a crash).
The cloud cover rolls in off the water as the elite women started in the early evening hours. The men watched from the pits in the middle of the track as the 45 minute race ended in a three-up sprint with the Italian powerhouse Valentina Scandolara taking glory across the line.
As the men started there were more than a few nervous faces after seeing crashes in the previous fields. Early attacks, breakaways and counterattacks ensued throughout the hour, until a disastrous crash in the final lap for Caleb Ewan left the sprinters chasing to catch up, and resulting in a wide open win for Brit Ian Bibby.
International: 2. Australia: 0.
Portarlington: Stage 2.
The wind coming off the water further down the coast was more akin to Scarborough during the Tour of Yorkshire than January in Australia. It was a double jumper kind of day and riders wore a pensive look along with their fleece jackets.
This is a course that lives up to its name as part of the Bay Crits: the view off the road onto the ocean below was unbeatable as always, even as the rain began to fall.
As the support race finished the women concluded their warm-ups and took to the start line. The Orica-Scott team was hungry for the win after coming up dry on the first day, and the decisive attack by Amanda Spratt up the back straight saw her solo to victory, by over 1.5 minutes. The team swept the podium taking second and third as well, but with stage 1 winner Valentina Scandolara in sixth the series lead remained in her hands.
In line with the day, Michael Hepburn from the men’s Orica-Scott team soloed to victory just an hour later. The pressure was on for the Australian team, who share a sponsor with the Bay Crits (Mitchelton Wine), and clearly the message was heard.
In the same vein as the women stage 1 victor Ian Bibby retained his race lead after stage 2.
Williamstown: Stage 3.
The jumpers are off. By the third bayside start the sun finally cracks through the clouds and the crowds reflect this eventual summer.
The Ale Australia tent was parked right next to the JLT Condor tent, with race winners in both having quiet chats with their directors, as their teammates mulled race tactics going into the final stage. Both leaders had held the jersey since day 1, and neither seemed keen to let it go easily.
Just minutes from Melbourne, Williamstown drew the avid, the casual and the hip, a true cross section of Australian fans. It was an all-out pedal to the metal day, with Jessica Allen and Caleb Ewan (both of Orica-Scott) taking the wins, but only after furious attacks from riders throughout the hour that saw a rapid shelling of riders out of the rear end of the peloton.
Despite the day's Orica sweep, the race leaders held their jerseys, marking for the first time in many years, non Australians taking the titles in the season opener.
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