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GEELONG, Australia (CT) – The Australian summer of cycling is officially underway at the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic and it was the international riders that took the honours on the first day of racing.
Italy’s Valentina Scandolara (Ale) and the UK’s Ian Bibby (Condor JLT) emerged victorious from stage 1 of the “Bay Crits” in Geelong, the former adding to her stage success at last year’s event and the latter taking a surprise victory after the big-name favourites crashed out on the final corner of the men’s race.
Scandolara’s Ale Cycling Team were one of three outfits in seemingly every move throughout the elite women’s race, with local team Orica-Scott (formerly Orica-AIS) and US-based Hagens Berman – Supermint also very active.
After a round of salvos from the big teams in the early stages, the race’s first decisive move came roughly two-thirds of the way through its 45 minutes. Orica-Scott pair Annemiek van Vleuten and Jess Allen got clear with Scandolara for company before a strong chase group of four came across: Peta Mullens (Hagens Berman – Supermint), Chloe Hosking (Ale), Sarah Roy and Amanda Spratt (both Orica-Scott).
Orica-Scott had four of the seven riders in the lead group and it was no surprise when Spratt soon attacked. She had Hosking for company — a promising move — but the pair were soon caught.
An attack with less than 10 minutes to go saw Allen, Shannon Malseed (Holden Women’s Cycling) and Scandolara get clear of the field. The trio would go on to maintain their gap through to the end with Scandolara taking a comfortable win, followed by Malseed and then Allen.
Getting up the road had been Ale Cycling’s plan when the day began.
“It was just a matter of making sure we were in the breakaway and me or Chloe [Hosking] or the other strong girls had to make sure to be there,” Scandolara said. “In the last corner I made sure I took it first so then I could manage my sprint and do what I wanted.
“First of January, first win — hopefully it will be a good year.”
Scandolara’s victory comes nearly a year after her win in the Portarlington stage of last year’s Bay Crits. The three-stage race heads to that particular bayside town tomorrow for stage 2 with Scandolara in the overall leader’s jersey.
The elite men’s race appeared to be following a familiar script to previous editions with Orica-Scott (formerly Orica-BikeExchange) controlling proceedings for Caleb Ewan. The 22-year-old had won the Bay Crits’ opening stage the past two years (on his way to overall victory both years) and a total of three times on the Richie Boulevard circuit. He sat in fourth or fifth wheel for seemingly all of today’s stage, tucked in behind his hard-working teammates.
After an initial flurry of attacks in the opening half of the race, it was Cameron Bayly (Isowhey Sports-SwissWellness) that got clear solo after roughly 25 minutes. In his first race for the Tasmanian-based outfit, Bayly built a lead that peaked at 15 seconds and stayed clear of the chasers for the next half hour.
Orica-Scott, through the hard work of Luke Durbridge and Michael Hepburn, eventually closed down Bayly’s long solo escape with just three laps remaining in the hour-long race. A crash on the back straight with a little over two laps to go wasn’t the first spill of the day, and it wouldn’t be the last.
Caleb Ewan hit the front on the back straight of the final lap before a crash on the final corner took out he and other favourites, including Scott Sunderland (IsoWhey Sports-SwissWellness). Ian Bibby, in his first race for Condor JLT, emerged from that final corner with only a couple of riders around him, and was able to hold of Jesse Kerrison (IsoWhey Sports-SwissWellness) and teammate Matt Gibson to take an unlikely victory.
“We were working for Brenton [Jones] to be honest,” Bibby said. “[I] did a good turn, got in position and sort of sat up and there was only six or seven left [in the final lap].
“And then they all went really hot into that corner and they all went down. Come out and I thought ‘best get my head down’. It was a bit of luck — it’s a shame they all crashed but I suppose that’s bike racing.”
Bibby goes into tomorrow’s hilly stage 2 in Portarlington with the leader’s yellow jersey. He will be hoping to defend his lead on a course that suits him more than did today’s pancake-flat, hotdog circuit.