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MENGLER’S HILL, Australia (CT) – The winds whipped up, the rain came down and the gradient turned up on the second stage of the Santos Women’s Tour. Adding to the force of nature was a determined Mitchelton-Scott, putting on the pressure at any opportunity as the peloton wound their way through the Barossa.
However, no one could stop an in-form Katrin Garfoot (UniSA-Australia), who fought off the combination of Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-Scott) and defending champion Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) after the trio rode off the front of a reduced group on the way up the climb. Garfoot crested the final hill with Kennedy on her wheel but managed to shake her off as it flattened out on the final run into the line. Spratt finished eight seconds back in third on the 101.2 kilometre stage from Lyndoch to Mengler’s Hill.
The dual 2017 World Road Championships medallist, Garfoot, is now heading into the final road stage with the Ochre leaders jersey on her back … and as always a big target. The next three spots on the general category are taken by Mitchelton-Scott riders, with Kennedy 4 seconds back, Spratt at 14 and Annemiek van Vleuten at 25 seconds.
The second stage was always going to be a tough and pivotal day, with the first summit finish for the 2.1 ranked tour on the cards. But with the pace being wound up right from the first climb of Whispering Wall, barely over 10 kilometres in, riders were yo-yoing on and off the bunch all day. Time after time Mitchelton-Scott used the hills and cross winds to apply pressure to the field to try and chip away at the strong national team around Garfoot. They wanted strength in numbers to try and find some way to wear down their former teammate and 2016 tour winner.
That early intensity wasn’t enough to stop Garfoot winning, though it may have helped keep the gap in check. It also contributed to a further thinning of the ranks. Over the past two days 15 riders have bowed out of the tour.
What a difference a day makes. Seeking relief from the heat on Stage 1 and then hiding from the rain on Stage 2.
Shelter, readying the body and maybe even the mind.
Sign on came with a bonus, meeting the local wildlife.
Wearing the ochre jersey, and working hard to do it proud. Sprinter Annette Edmondson (Wiggle High5) held on as the group was thinned to about 30 by the bottom of Mengler’s Hill.
Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-Scott) had a big day of work ahead on the front.
Out into the grapevines of the Barossa.
Mitchelton-Scott turning up the pace on the very first climb.
New Australian champion Shannon Malseed.
The UniSA-Australia team were all for making it hard early too, if that meant they could get someone off the front. “We thought if we can get an early break away it would take some pressure off me,” said Garfoot. “The other teams unfortunately didn’t want to pull.”
Heading to the base of Whispering Wall for a second time toward the first hill climb points of the day.
The winds are starting to pick up.
Splitting up the bunch in the cross winds. “We knew that she (Garfoot) was going to be the biggest competition on the final climb. So before that we just wanted to make it as hard as possible in the race to kind of try to tire her out and try to tire any of the other GC riders,” said Spratt. “I think we did that really well in the cross winds and on the early climbs.”
Approaching the base of the final climb at Mengler’s Hill. It wasn’t the best run in for third-placed Kennedy with her ideal position being threatened by a mechanical at the base of the climb. “I was right up there where I needed to be and then my chain came off but I was really lucky I had two teammates there basically ready to catch me,” said Kennedy. “My chain was completely off … and they pushed me along and I managed to flick it back on which was a relief.”
The final stretch was tough. While some were racing for the top places others were just trying not to let the gap blow out too far.
Katrin Garfoot took off with two Mitchelton-Scott riders on her back wheel. “Basically every time someone attacked the group would shrink a little bit and it got down to just the three of us, Spratty, Kat and I,” said Kennedy. “We were just trying to one, two Kat to try and shake her. But every time one of us went she was right there on our wheel so she was just too strong for us today.”
Kate McIlroy (Specialized Women’s Racing) and Malseed took out fifth and sixth while Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) passed the pair after this point to take fourth.
The winner heads to the podium. “Well when Lucy attacked I was just hanging onto her wheel. When I knew if I was hanging on to her I would get the stage because she’s not a very good kicker,” said Garfoot. “When I turned around and no one was there I thought OK I’ve got this; especially knowing that it flattens out a bit over the top.”
Follow the link to see the full results from Stage 2. Up next is the final road stage, a technical and lumpy 122.4 kilometres from The Bend Motorsport Park to Hahndorf.