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ALBERT PARK, Australia (CT) — It was a fast bunch sprint and the closest of finishes in the first edition of Race Melbourne with Kirsten Wild (Cylance) and Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini) looking to each other as they rolled past the finish line, wondering who had won.
It came down to a wait for the photo finish in the curtain raiser criterium for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, with Wild’s throw to the line delivering the victory and making it her third time on the top step of the podium in the past two weeks.
“Chloe was going really fast from the back and it was really exciting. I pushed my wheel to the front,” Wild told reporters.
The pair were the favourites coming into the race after a stellar start to the year, with both standing on the podium in three of the four stages of the Santos Women’s Tour last week. Watching Wild and Hosking fighting it out for the win has been a regular occurrence, but this battle was the closest we’ve seen.
“I felt like my wheel was maybe first but it was really, really close. She was coming with a bit more speed from the back so it was really dangerous. I think if it was one metre more she would have won,” Wild told Ella CyclingTips in a video interview.
See the full interview here:
Rounding out the podium was Lisa Brennauer (Canyon-SRAM) and Annette Edmondson (Wiggle High5) took fourth.
How the race played out
There were plenty of attacks during the Towards Zero Race Melbourne held on the Australia Day public holiday, before ultimately it all came down to a bunch sprint after the women had done 12 laps of Melbourne’s Albert Park Formula 1 circuit, to race 63.6 kilometres around the lake.
The race took less than an hour and a half, with lap times sitting over seven minutes and an average speed of 43.3 kilometres an hour. They would have been breaking the speed limit under normal road conditions.
The attacks were mostly launched around the back of the course where there was a headwind, but no one got off the front for too long. The likes of Ale Cipollini, Wiggle High5 and Cylance weren’t about to let the chance to sprint for the win on the flat circuit escape them. It also didn’t help that no one was going to give the riders much time to establish a gap as they were picking up the pace to chase the intermediate sprints, with Grace Garner (Wiggle High5) sweeping up the first and Ruth Winder (UnitedHealthcare) the second.
Those who tried to get away, included Ann-Sophie Duyck (Drops), Emma Pooley (Holden Women’s Cycling), Starla Teddergreen (Hagens Berman-Supermint) and Tayler Wiles (United Healthcare), who fought her way back onto the group after what looked like a mechanical and didn’t linger long before she launched out the front. None of the gaps ever seemed to get beyond 15 seconds though before they were shut down.
Next stop Geelong
The women’s Cadel Evans Race, known as the Deakin University Elite Women’s Road Race, on Saturday is the women’s final burst of racing for the summer season in Australia, with the Santos Women’s Tour last week helping the international teams get back into gear and integrate new riders.
The race starts and finishes in the coastal city of Geelong, just over an hour from Melbourne. The 113 kilometre course, which takes in views of the iconic Bells Beach, has enough hills to provide plenty of launching points for attacks and the past two years the field has splintered before the finish. Both previous editions of the race have been won with a solo run to the line, Amanda Spratt (Orica-Scott) in 2016 and Rachel Neylan (Orica-Scott) in 2015.
For all the details about how to follow the race and who to look out for see our preview here.