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by Jessi Braverman
January 17, 2015
WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
Italian Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS) turned a perfectly timed late race attack into a solo victory on the opening stage of the Santos Women’s Tour. Crossing the line six seconds ahead of a decimated bunch, Scandolara punched the air in celebration. Lauren Kitchen (Roxsolt) edged out Melissa Hoskins (Orica-AIS) in the bunch sprint to take second place.
“I feel very happy,” said Scandolara. “I was excited to race. I watched my teammates race at the Bay Crits and the Nationals, and I was ready to begin my season in Australia.”
The first stage of the four day event covered 59km from Woodside to Murray Bridge. The profile suggested it would be a day for the sprinters, but quiet talk at the stage start suggested several teams had previewed the course and anticipated a hard day on the bike.
The race was fast and aggressive from the gun. The recently crowned U23 double national champion Shannon Malseed (Holden) put in the first attack of the day inside the opening kilometres of the race. A constant stream of breakaway attempts and counter-moves followed. Until Scandolara’s race-winning move, no rider was able to gain more than a handful of seconds over the hungry bunch, and all attempts to sneak away proved futile.
“Today played out quite similar to what we had discussed,” said Hoskins, who finished in third place. “We had the hills at the start, and the first few climbs were aggressive. We made moves. We made splits. The bunch was too fresh to break up at that point, but we were ready to do damage when the crosswinds came.”
And do damage they did. Orica-AIS pushed the pace and split the peloton to pieces around the 40 kilometre mark. A freight train crossing caused a temporarily neutralisation, but race officials carefully recorded the time gaps between the four groups that had taken shape before the stoppage. When the race re-started, the first group of approximately 25 riders set off with a nearly half-minute advantage over group two.
“We capitalised on the crosswinds and put a few teams in the hurt box,” noted Hoskins. “We knew we had the strength and the numbers.”
Scandolara accelerated away from the front group confidentially. She was hopeful her move would have staying power and knew that if it didn’t her teammates were resting behind her, readying themselves for the sprint. Coming into Murray Bridge, Scandolara had a 23 second advantage.
“I knew it was the right move because either I would go to the finish or my teammates would be ready for the finish,” explained Scandolara. “I was feeling pretty confident. Every way was good for the team, and we always work for the team. I was sure it was the right time for the move.”
Wiggle Honda initially took up the chase until they lost pre-race favourite Giorgia Bronzini to a mechanical. Roxsolt attempted to bring things back together to set up Kitchen in the sprint, but they ran out of road to close the gap. Kitchen was forced to settle for best of the bunch.
“We knew it was going to be pretty close,” said Hoskins. “We waited and waited and waited. I picked the wrong wheel to sprint off, but it didn’t matter. We got the win in the end.”
“There wasn’t much collaboration in the group,” noted Kitchen. “We essentially sprinted second, which I managed to to pull off for the girls. We’re looking to hold onto that general classification spot tomorrow and hopefully support the two jersey we now hold. We have Loren Rowney in the KOM jersey, and I’m in the sprint jersey.”
Racing continues tomorrow in Adelaide’s East End. Scandolara will start the 40 minute criterium in the turquoise jersey of race leader.
“I would like to try to keep it,” said Scandolara. “We will see day by day. I will talk to the team about how we manage the race.”
After Stage 1
Yellow & Black 75 km/h Sign
Murray Bridge Showgrounds (Stage Finish)
Hogan Road CAT4