Highlights from the 2014 Jayco Herald Sun Tour

by Matt de Neef

It’s been an impressive start to the year for Orica-GreenEDGE. The Australian national road race championships and the Santos Tour Down Under both fell the way of Simon Gerrans and it was a different Simon – Simon Clarke – who continued Orica-GreenEDGE’s great summer, winning the 61st edition of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour on the weekend.

Prologue ITT: Melbourne Southbank

In its first year back as a UCI 2.1-ranked race, the Jayco Herald Sun Tour got underway with a twilight prologue in the centre of Melbourne on Wednesday. The technical 2.5km course featured a number of tight turns, potholes and drain covers to negotiate and for most of the riders it was a case of getting through the stage safely, without losing too much time.

Will Clarke (Drapac) was an early contender for the win, setting a time of 3:02 and sitting in the hot seat for much of the night. His time was later beaten by Tom Scully (New Zealand National Team) by a single second and with only two riders left it looked like the night belonged to Scully.

But as the penultimate rider to leave the start gate, Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) averaged 50km/h to post a time of three minutes flat, taking the win ahead of his compatriot Scully. It was an impressive start for Garmin-Sharp who not only took the win but placed four riders in the top seven overall.

Click here for results from the prologue.

Stage 1: Geelong to Ballarat

Jack Bauer started stage 1 in the leader’s yellow jersey and it was left to his Garmin-Sharp team to control proceedings. A three-rider group of Thomas Hamilton (Jayco Australian U23 National Team), Alberto Bettiol (Cannondale Pro Cycling) and Nathan Elliott (African Wildlife Safaris) escaped from the peloton on the outskirts of Geelong and held their lead over the tough Glenmore Road climb, with Hamilton taking maximum points.

The trio was caught by a chasing group of 15 riders on the other side of the KOM and much of the peloton would later join them over the category four climb of Mt. Egerton.

When it came to the uphill bunch sprint on Sturt Street in Ballarat, Nathan Haas made it two wins in two days for Garmin-Sharp, overpowering his bigger-name opponents, including Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Jonathan Cantwell (Drapac).

Click here for results from stage 1.

Stage 2: Ballarat to Bendigo

The first two days of the race belonged to Garmin-Sharp but on stage 2 it was Orica-GreenEDGE’s chance to get back on the winners’ list.

A group of 17 riders got away from the peloton just 20km into the stage, with Simon Clarke one of several riders flying the flag for Orica-GreenEDGE. The break managed to pull away from the peloton on what was a hot and hilly day and when the 17-rider group hit the day’s main climb, up Mt. Alexander, the group fractured.

Clarke attacked on the climb, dragging Jack Haig (Avanti) and Cam Wurf (Cannondale) with him and the trio managed to hold on for the remaining 48km to the line.

Clarke took a comfortable win ahead of Wurf and Haig, taking the overall lead from Nathan Haas and ensuring that the three breakaway riders would occupy all three steps on the overall podium. It would turn out to be the final podium as well.

Click here for results from stage 2.

Stage 3: Mitchelton Winery to Nagambie

It didn’t take long for the day’s breakaway to get established with Chris Jory (KordaMentha Australian National Team), Hugh Carth (Rapha Condor JTL), Davide Frattini (UnitedHealthcare), Nathan Elliot (African Wildlife Safaris), John Anderson (Drapac), Sam Spokes (Jayco U23 Australia), Thomas Hamilton (Jayco U23 Australia), Elchin Asadov (Synergy Baku) and Kristian Juel (Budget Forklifts) building a nearly-four-minute advantage over the main field.

They contested the day’s two climbs amongst themselves but by then the lead was well and truly starting to come down. Orica-GreenEDGE, Garmin-Sharp and Cannondale all contributed to the pacemaking at the front of the main field, ensuring the race would end with a bunch sprint.

A crash in sight of the second intermediate sprint point saw several riders hit the deck, including Pat Shaw (KordaMenthe National Team) who was taken from the race in an ambulance.

The final sprint arrived and what might have been a Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) win was spoiled by a dropped chain with 200m to go. Unofficial reports suggest that many of the riders were actually sprinting for a blue inflatable Subaru sign 200m from the finish which saw many sprinters mistime their run.

But in the end it was 19-year-old sprinter Robert-John McCarthy who took the biggest win of his young career, ahead of New Zealand’s Rico Rogers (OCBC Singapore) and Felix English (Rapha Condor JLT).

Back in the bunch Simon Clarke finished in 11th on the same time, ensuring he would hold on to his overall lead, ahead of Cameron Wurf and Jack Haig who both finished in the bunch as well.

Click here for results from stage 3.

Stage 4: Arthurs Seat

Stage 4 of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour was supposed to be the race’s queen stage; a stage that was scheduled to include three ascents of the short but steep Arthurs Seat climb. But with bushfires burning out of control in several parts of Victoria emergency service crews and vehicles were needed elsewhere.

And so, in consultation with Victoria Police, the race organisers cancelled the stage. It was a disappointing outcome for the many fans that had made the journey to the Mornington Peninsula to watch the race and, no doubt, for the riders who were looking forward to an exciting final day’s racing.

But “safety first” was the order of the day and the cancelled stage saw Simon Clarke crowned the winner of the 61st edition of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour. Cameron Wurf finished second overall, eight seconds behind Clarke while Jack Haig was third, 11 seconds behind Clarke.

Click here for the final results.

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