WILLIAMSTOWN, Australia (CT) – Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) and Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS) have been crowned the winners of the 2016 Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, the former winning the final stage in Williamstown en route to securing his third title, the latter successfully defending the yellow jersey with fifth place.
The final stage of the elite women’s race was won by Elvin’s teammate Lizzie Williams who helped to forge the day’s main escape before getting away solo and holding on for an impressive victory.
“I could tell I was feeling good,” Williams said after the stage. “I was looking at my watts on the rollers [during the warm-up – ed.] and you can just tell if you’re going to have a good day and I’m like ‘I’m going to go and I’m going to go full gas and see what happens’ and it worked.”
Williams’ former breakaway companion, Julie Leth (Alé), held on for second place while Kajihara Yumi (Novotel Hotel/Japan) rode her way to third place.
The early pace-setting in the women’s race was done by Melbourne local Verita Stewart (Specialized Women’s Cycling) before Williams and Leth broke clear of the bunch roughly halfway through the 45-minute town-centre criterium.
Leth and Williams worked well together but with three laps to go Williams made her move, opening up a small gap on her Danish companion.
“We were sharing the load — we were working well together — but I could tell she was struggling,” Williams said. “And I thought ‘I’m not going to take the chance — I’m feeling good. I reckon I can ride her off my wheel’ and I did it.”
Williams continued to open a lead as Yumi left the peloton in search of a podium place.
They finished in that order — Williams, Leth, Yumi — while Gracie Elvin’s fifth place (behind stage 3 winner Valentina Scandolara) was enough to see the Canberran take the overall victory. She’ll go into Sunday’s road race at the Australian Road Nationals as one of the big favourites.
“I actually wanted to stay a bit under the radar this week and just be riding around for form,” the two-time national champion said. “But I think I’ve got a big target on my back again!”
In the elite men’s race, Caleb Ewan romped his way to a third Bay Crits title, winning the bunch sprint after a clinical performance from his Orica-GreenEdge team. Drapac’s Brenton Jones was second on the day — for the third time this week — while Ewan’s lead-out man Alex Edmondson held his pace to finish third.
The first to get away in the elite men’s race was Josh Taylor (State of Matter/MAAP) who was joined a short time later by sprint classification leader Robbie Hucker (Avanti Isowhey). With Orica-GreenEdge setting the tempo in the peloton, the two leaders were caught halfway through the hour-long race, prompting Sam Crome (Avanti IsoWhey) to try his hand at a solo break.
The Victorian was soon caught and from there it was a case of gruppo compatto for the remainder of the race. Avanti Isowhey made their presence felt on the front of the bunch for a few laps but it was the Orica-GreenEdge duo of Jack Haig and Luke Durbridge that did the majority of the work.
Alex Edmondson took over from Haig and Durbridge in the final lap before Ewan hit the front ahead of the final corner, the 21-year-old using every centimetre of road in the process.
“I thought I’d braked enough going into [the final corner] but as I was going through it I was thinking ‘Oh gosh, I’ve gone a bit too fast’, Ewan said. “But I got around it alright and I think I had a little bit of a gap coming out of it.
“It’s not far from that corner to the finish and you really have to go through it in first place to win here.”
He did just that, dashing to his third win in four days of racing — the same haul as last year — and his third overall title in the season-opening race.
Ewan will go into Sunday’s elite men’s road race at the Australia road nationals as one of several options for the ever-imposing Orica-GreenEdge squad.
Stay posted for a photo gallery from the four days of racing, coming tomorrow on CyclingTips.