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WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
Australia’s Santos Women’s Tour this week launched the women’s 2017 international road racing season with a typically hot start, as the Aussie riders battled to maintain a rare home ground advantage against a field increasingly loaded with international riders escaping the northern hemisphere winter. The racing was fierce right from the beginning of the four stage UCI 2.2 classified race, with the in-form Orica-Scott team determined to lay their claim to a tour which they have won every year since its inception in 2015. However, they were surrounded by a field of riders just as determined to ruin their run.
We’ve followed the race, from start to finish, with daily reports, rider diaries and video interviews, but we couldn’t sign off on our coverage until we gave you the chance to see the race through the lens of one of favourite photographers, Tim Bardsley-Smith.
There was so much at stake in this first stage of the race from Hahndorf to the small South Australian town of Meadows. It was the longest stage of the race and had the tour’s toughest climb close to the end so all the riders chasing the general classification of the Santos Women’s Tour knew they could be starting off with the stage that could decide the overall winner.
The Australian team Orica-Scott played to their strength, launching one-two attacks with Amanda Spratt and current Australian road champion Katrin Garfoot. It was Spratt that got away, initially with others, but by the time she came to the line with she had managed to shake them off. She came across the finish spent, barely looking like she had energy to celebrate her win even though she had every reason to do so as she had carved out a nineteen second advantage on her nearest rival and just over one minute on most of the favourites. This was a lead worth putting every last bit of effort in for.
For the full stage report click here.
On the start line riders chatted, caught up on what had happened during the break, with an underlying buzz of excitement as to what was in store for the days ahead.
The concentration, settled in once the race was off as this was a crucial day as with only two road stages, anyone after the GC knew they needed to make it count.
Using all the road, before the peloton split as the climbing ramped up.
The winner Amanda Spratt came across the line with barely any energy left to celebrate, but by expending every last bit of energy she gave herself every reason to. She had created a gap of 19 seconds to her nearest rival Janneke Ensing (Ale Cipollini Galassia) and just over a minute to all the other pre-race favourites.
Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM) was the first young rider across the line taking out the bunch sprint for fourth.
The podium backing was looking a bit worse for wear after a feisty gust of wind blew through the park, however the riders were looking a lot fresher after having a moment to recover and enjoy the reward of a job well done.
The large time gap carved out by the Spratt left no one in any doubt that this was the bike to beat.
The race moved to the heart of Adelaide, where the crowds were lining the barriers and banging on them to amp up the excitement as the riders came past. There simply couldn’t have been a bigger contrast to the quite finishing town of Meadows in South Australia the day before. The women’s stage 2 was held right before the men rode the launch event for their racing in Adelaide and it was time for the sprinters to come to the fore in front of the bumper crowds.
With a silver medallist at the Qatar World Road Championships, Kirsten Wild (Cylance) and La Course winner Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini Galassia), in the field there was always going to be a fierce battle to the line. It was Wild that delivered the win for her new team, and fellow Cylance rider Rachele Barbieri came second with Hosking in third.
Interviews for the jersey wearers, Ryan wears the young riders jersey which was one of the most hotly contested categories of the race.
First time testing out the sprint train in a new team and you’d have to say the result was pretty impressive. Wild, who has proven form in the heat with a second place at the Road World Championships in Qatar, came first and her team mate Rachele Barbieri came second.
Spratt still smiling in blue after the crit, though not yet able to relax with the final road stage ahead in the morning.
It was back to the hills around Adelaide for the 92 kilometre stage 3, and while the climbs weren’t in the same league as stage 1, the heat rising into the mid 30’s certainly turned up the degree of difficulty a notch. This was the last real opportunity for anyone to try and pull in Spratt’s GC lead, but with a strong team helping her defend and such a big gap it was always going to be a long shot.
The day started with a gutsy long lone breakaway by Erin Kinnealy (Holden Women’s Cycling), with her lead stretching out to near two minutes at one stage. However, around halfway through the race before the first run over the Queen of the Mountain, she was swallowed up by the group, and then like many other riders spat out the back as the climbers picked up the pace.
By the time the riders reached the finish of their race through the Barossa the field had splintered and it was a reduced bunch sprint, but that didn’t mean the pace was off as the top sprinters had managed to haul themselves over the hills. It was a battle to the line between Hosking and Wild, and this time Hosking won.
Spratt looking cool calm and collected at the start despite temperatures heading into the high 30’s. Not that you can tell from this shot, but she said she was particularly nervous at the start of this stage with the unfamiliar responsibility of being team leader for a tour weighing. The team however, had no intention of letting her down.
It was hot right from the beginning as the riders set off through the palms and grapevines. The vines were green but the paddocks were parched, just like the riders who as soon as feeding opened up at 20 kilometres were calling for the team cars to come forward with fluids and stockings full of ice cubes.
It wasn’t even ten kilometres into the race when Kinnealy broke away out the front solo.
Once the riders approached the first Queen of the Mountain climb Kinnealy was swept up and the riders who excel on the uphill shifted to the front of the field and started tearing it to shreds.
After the uphill ramped up riders were slipping into the convoy, in visible distress as the heat took its toll and those who still had something left were chasing like crazy on the descents to try and rejoin.
The in-form sprinters of the race managed to haul themselves over the hills for the fast run into the line. Hosking won the drag race, beating the previous days winner Wild.
While the stage winner and green sprinters jersey holder fronted up for interviews, the other teams sought shade and water.
A hot final evening criterium of one hour plus two laps was the decider for the Santos Women’s Tour. Amanda Spratt’s big lead in the competition for the blue overall leaders jersey meant that the winner was set, bar the hugest of upsets, however there was a still a battle in place for the stage and young riders jersey.
Canyon-SRAM aggressively supported their contender for the white jersey, turning up the heat in the sprints so she could take out three bonus sprints and secure herself the young rider classification. Orica-Scott was in protection mode, with Annemiek van Vleuten piloting Spratt through the group and the rest of the team monitoring the front.
They relaxed though when they got to near the end and the blue jersey looked secure, allowing the sprint trains of the other teams to line up and fight it out for the stage win. Wild secured her second victory of the tour, Annette Edmondson came second and Hosking third.
For full stage report see here.
Nearly over and the blue jersey looks safely ensconced on Spratt’s back.
But there is still a stage and other jersey’s to be decided. The team got behind Ryan(left), to chase sprint points so she could earn back the white jersey.
The crowd may be hiding in the back of the grandstand to find a place away from the burning sun but they made sure they could still be heard, clapping and letting out a cheer every time the riders passed.
The sprint trains were vying for position in the run to the line.
And Wild takes her second win of the tour.
The GC podium for the first women’s international road race of the year, Spratt, Janneke Ending and Wild.