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PORTARLINGTON, Australia (CT) – After missing out on yesterday’s opening day of the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, Orica-Scott made amends in emphatic fashion on stage 2, winning both the women’s and men’s races.
Less than week out from her national title defense, Amanda Spratt took a commanding solo victory on the tough Portarlington course as teammates Jenelle Crooks (second) and Annemiek van Vleuten (third) completed an Orica-Scott clean sweep of the podium. A little over an hour later, Michael Hepburn put in a late attack to take a solo victory of his own. Stage 1 winner Ian Bibby (Condor JLT) was second while Mathew Gibson (Condor) repeated his third place from a day earlier.
The elite women’s race began with the orange colours of Ale Cycling massing at the front of the peloton in support of stage 1 winner and overall leader Valentina Scandolara. It took a third of the race’s 45 minutes for a meaningful move to go — a dangerous nine-rider escape featuring Scandolara, Peta Mullens (Hagens Berman-Supermint), Shannon Malseed (Holden Women’s Racing), Minami Uwano (Novotel Geelong-Japan), and all five Orica-Scott riders.
With such numbers up front it was no surprise when Orica-Scott attacked from the lead group, Amanda Spratt being the one to go. With her teammates slowing progress in the group behind, Spratt was quickly able to establish a sizeable lead that grew to well beyond a minute.
The chase group was soon caught by the peloton, a peloton which Spratt came close to lapping. But aggression from Spratt’s teammates towards the end saw the 29-year-old’s lead drop somewhat, the two-time national champion winning by 1:37 over a reduced peloton. In her first Bay Crits series, Crooks punched off the front of the bunch for second, as van Vleuten rounded out the podium.
The result was a satisfying one for Orica-Scott after a frustrating stage a day earlier.
“Yesterday we made a few mistakes in that race with not using the numbers as best we could so today we really wanted to make amends for that,” Spratt said. “So we decided to be aggressive earlier on this course that definitely suits the whole team. So even 10 minutes in we started the aggression then and we were able to create a situation where we had our entire team in a group of 10.
“So that was perfect and we actually chose to drive it even though everyone else was sitting on for a few laps, just to get that gap consolidated. Then we could attack from there and I attacked and got away solo.”
With one stage remaining in the 2017 Bay Crits — tomorrow’s Williamstown criterium — Scandolara continues to lead the series overall after finishing sixth on stage 2.
In the elite men’s race, Condor-JLT took responsibility for controlling the peloton, riding in support of stage 1 winner and overnight leader Ian Bibby. An early attack from Nathan Elliott (VTWO) was shortlived, so too a move from points classification leader Cameron Bayly (IsoWhey Sports-SwissWellness), and it wasn’t until the 25 minute mark that the first dangerous move came about.
Michael Hepburn got clear on his own, spending some 10 minutes out front as his Orica-Scott teammates slowed things down. Once Hepburn surrendered it was his teammate Caleb Ewan who mounted an attack of his own, dragging Robbie Hucker (IsoWhey Sports-SwissWellness) along for the ride.
The pair lead procedings for roughly a third of the hour-long race, with Ewan doing all the work, before the peloton of less than 20 regrouped inside the final 10 minutes. With four laps to go Hepburn got clear of the bunch once more, this time with Bibby, Gibson and Jesse Kerrison (IsoWhey-SwissWellness) for company. Gibson was dropped and then Hepburn hit out on his own again, trying to distance the fast-finisher Kerrison.
The latter removed himself from contention on the penultimate lap when he crashed on a corner as Bibby and Gibson regrouped in chase of Hepburn. The Queenslander wouldn’t be caught though, riding away to a strong solo victory.
“When I was away with Bibby and Kerrison — obviously the leader’s jersey and Jesse’s a pretty fast finisher — so I wanted to go the line by myself and I threw a couple of attacks in but couldn’t get rid of them,” Hepburn said. “So I decided to just attack through the start-finish line, which you don’t normally do here, but just tried to catch Jesse off-guard and luckily I got a gap and could keep going.”
Going into tomorrow’s final day of racing, Bibby holds onto his lead in the overall standings and will likely be crowned the winner of the 2017 Bay Crits.