GEELONG, Australia (CT) – Caleb Ewan and Gracie Elvin have ensured a perfect start to the 2016 racing season for Orica-GreenEdge, winning their respective races on the first day of the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic in Geelong.
Elvin (Orica-AIS), a two-time former Australian road champion, added to her stage 2 victory from last year’s Bay Crits when she outsprinted teammate Lizzie Williams and reigning Australian criterium champion Kimberley Wells (High5 DreamTeam) in the elite women’s race. As Elvin later admitted, the plan had been for her to lead-out teammate Sarah Roy rather than sprint for victory herself.
“I actually feel a bit bad for winning, which is unusual,” Elvin said. “It’s awesome to win for the team but I was really hoping to support my teammates today. I hope they’re not too upset with me!”
There were many attacks and breakaway attempts throughout the 45-minute elite women’s criterium but no rider was able to build a meaningful lead on the Ritchie Boulevard circuit.
The Orica-AIS team was typically active throughout the race, creating some moves and bringing back others, but as the final corners approached, it was all back together and a sprint loomed.
“I just saw the bunch slowing in that last corner and I thought I’d give Sarah Roy one last kick into the corner,” Elvin explained. “I sprinted as hard as I could down the line waiting for everyone to come past me but I got it just on the line.”
In the elite men’s race, Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) benefited from a stellar supporting ride from teammate Jack Haig before sprinting to victory ahead of Brenton Jones (Drapac) and Pat Shaw (Avanti IsoWhey).
“It’s actually a massive relief. I didn’t know what my form was going to be like and it’s hard to tell especially in a short race like this,” Ewan said. “I haven’t done an hour-long race since this time last year so it was nice coming here to win again.”
The win comes a year after Ewan won on the same circuit in the 2015 Bay Crits en route to winning three of the four stages and taking overall victory. Ewan was quick to praise Haig for his tireless work in today’s race.
“He’s a climber and unfortunately we had a broken bike for Alex [Edmondson] so he couldn’t start so Jack did an awesome job,” Ewan said. “I’m so impressed with him.”
Haig, racing for the first time in Orica-GreenEdge colours, spent nearly the entire hour of the race on the front of the peloton with Ewan on his wheel. The former controlled an early move from Avanti IsoWhey recruit Robbie Hucker (formerly Drapac) who escaped solo after 10 minutes and spent nearly half the race out front with a gap of roughly 10 seconds.
Once Hucker had been caught, the second half of the race saw concerted attacks from another Avanti IsoWhey newcomer, Pat Lane, and from Geelong local Leigh Howard (Chain Reaction Cycles) while the peloton thinned down dramatically. With 10 minutes left to race, less than 20 of the original 59 riders remained on the circuit.
On the final lap, Ewan burst to the front on the back straight of the 750m course, rounding the final corners in perfect position and then sprinting to a comfortable victory.
Ewan’s win follows a phenomenally successful opening season in the pro ranks in 2015; a season in which he took 11 professional victories. He will go into tomorrow’s second stage of the Bay Crits at Geelong’s Eastern Beach wearing the yellow leader’s jersey. Gracie Elvin will have the same honour in the elite women’s race.