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by Simone Giuliani
January 14, 2017
Photography by Tim Bardsley-Smith
WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
MEADOWS, Australia (CT) – Charging down the long straight to the finish line of the opening stage of the Santos Women’s Tour Amanda Spratt (Orica-Scott) got to throw her arms into the air to take the win with no other riders in sight. However, despite having every cause for celebration there was no sign of the elated smile of relief and excitement that the winner usually wears.
Spratt was giving everything she had right to the end, and her face showed it. Every second counted as there was more at stake than just a stage victory – this was a win aimed at making it difficult for anyone else to take the blue leaders jersey for the entire race.
Stage one from Hahndorf to Meadows was always set to be a pivotal day for the general classification, as not only is it the longest of the race at 106.5 kilometres, but also the toughest of the four stages with plenty of climbs right near the end. It was a splintered field that came across the line, with the chase on as Spratt and two other riders got away in the last 20 kilometres. Spratt came into the line 19 seconds ahead of Janneke Ensing (Ale Cipollini Galassia) and 59 seconds ahead of third place finisher Katherine Hall (United HealthCare), who just held out a group of 23 riders a further two seconds back.
Spratt comes across the finish line with plenty to celebrate, but not much energy to do it.
“I think that was probably the most painful last five kilometres I’ve ever done,” Spratt told reporters. “Gene (Orica-Scott’s sports director) said to us last night the number one goal is to win the stage and to win with enough time to have a good buffer for the overall.”
“That was the best case scenario and that is what we have been able to do,” added Spratt, who just last week took the silver medal at the Australian Road Championships.
With a buffer of just over one minute, the other race favourites will have their work cut out to close the gap to Spratt. There is only one slightly shorter road stage to come on Monday, as both stages two and four are criteriums.
“It’s not over yet but it’s a good feeling to have that jersey and a bit of time as well,” said Spratt, who was sporting salt stains on her jersey from sweat, despite the unusually mild South Australian summer day.
Alexis Ryan took a hard fought fourth place from the bunch, which earns her the young rider jersey. It was the only one Spratt, who was up and down from the podium, didn’t take out.
Shoes that saw a lot of the top step today.
The race started out in Hahndorf, a half hour drive from Adelaide, with the riders looking relaxed as they caught up at the start line. But once the gun fired it was time to remain vigilant.
Katrin Garfoot in her first race wearing the Australian Road Champions jersey
Before the halfway mark there had already been a number of digs, with Kate Perry (Specialized Women’s Racing) going early but being swept up before the sprint at 26 kilometres, where Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini Galassia) jumped out of the pack to take the points. Later Louisa Lobigs (Holden Women’s Cycling), Ellen Skerritt (Rush Women’s Team) and again Perry tried to escape. There were plenty of attempts but with Orica-Scott on patrol at the front of the pack there was no getting away.
The attacks just wouldn’t stick but then Orica-Scott used their team strength at about 20 kilometres to go to create one that would. Spratt launched a one-two attack with last year’s Santos Women’s Tour winner and Australian road title holder, Katrin Garfoot. As a result Spratt got away with Ensing and Rushlee Buchanan (United HealthCare).
Buchanan was dropped from the break before the Queen of the Mountain climb of Paris Creek Road, with 700 metres at a gradient of nearly 11%. Then near the top of the climb, which was just four kilometres from the end, Spratt took off solo and that’s the way she stayed as she came into the finish line in the small country town of Meadows and carved out a hard to pull back one minute and one second buffer to most of the other favourites.