In sweltering conditions down on Geelong’s Richie Boulevard, the first stage of the elite women’s Bay Crits was decided from an elite breakaway of five riders. Peta Mullens, Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS), Miranda Griffiths (Holden Women’s Cycling), Lauren Kitchen (Roxsolt) and Chloe Hosking (Wiggle Down Under) got in the decisive move and eked out a race-winning lead. In her first race in Wiggle colours Chloe Hosking won the sprint and took the overall lead.
On stage 2 the following day the riders faced even worse conditions at Geelong’s Eastern Park with 42 degree temperatures being coupled with a powerful northerly. Reining two-time national road race champion Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS) relished the conditions, attacking solo and riding away to a commanding victory. Hosking held on to her overall lead with third place, behind Dutchwoman Loes Gunnewijk (Orica-AIS).
On stage 3 the riders headed to Portarlington for the hilliest and arguably most challenging of the four races. Peta Mullens, racing as an individual after deciding to forego a road contract in favour of her Rio 2016 MTB ambitions, rode away solo and kept the chasing bunch at bay. Hosking’s fifth place was enough to see her remain atop the overall leaderboard, just two points clear of Lauren Kitchen who was third on the stage.
The final stage in Williamstown yesterday was a fast and aggressive affair with Orica-AIS and Roxsolt doing all they could to dislodge Hosking from the overall lead. Their attempts were in vain, however, and Hosking secured overall victory with third in the bunch kick behind teammate Giorgia Bronzini (who won overall in 2014) and the in-form Kimberley Wells (Roxsolt).
The hot conditions and Michael Hepburn’s tireless work on the front of the bunch saw just 19 of the 80 starters finish stage 1. Greg Henderson (New Zealand) broke clear partway through the race and was joined by young gun Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) and the pair built a race-winning advantage. The final sprint was a formality: Ewan took victory and the leader’s yellow jersey in the process.
Down the road at Eastern Park on stage 2 there was a similar attrition rate with just 24 of 88 finishing the race. A pair of riders got clear and were later joined by a handful more, but the race was destined for a bunch sprint. Caleb Ewan, having been sheltered by his Orica-GreenEdge teammates, took a comfortable victory and extended his overall lead.
In Portalington the following day it was a similar story. Several small groups got clear on the hilly course but none were able to last the distance. Ewan bided his time in the bunch and when it came to the final sprint only Steele von Hoff (Avanti/NFTO) could get near him … and even then it was because Ewan appeared to sit up and celebrate a little too early. Three wins in three days for Ewan meant the 20-year-old took an unbeatable lead into the final stage.
All the talk at Williamstown was about whether Caleb Ewan could be the first rider in the Bay Crits’ 26-year history to win all four stages. In the end he couldn’t, with a five-rider group being driven clear of the bunch by Greg Henderson and Roger Kluge (IAM). Orica-GreenEdge tried chasing down the break, with Ewan himself contributing to the pacemaking, but it wasn’t to be. Henderson took a well-deserved victory while Ewan, sprinting to sixth place, took out the overall title for the second time.
Click through for full results from the 2015 Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic.