The weather was scorching but there was no holding back for the first stage of the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under as the sprinters wanted to keep the breaks at bay and grab the chance for a bunch finish while they could.
As spectators waited at the Gumeracha finish line, waiting for news of what was happening to filter through, there was word that Rachel Neylan (UniSA-Australia) had put in a break and pulled out a lead of about one and a half minutes. But the bunch wasn’t going to have that, with some teams eyeing the GC threat at the Australian tour and others the stage sprint.
There was an effort from Mitchelton-Scott and Wiggle High5 to pull Neylan back. It wasn’t in their interests to allow one of the most formidable teams in the peloton to run away with an early advantage. And the attempt to reel Neylan back in worked. Although a crash not long before the finish left some out of contention, but ultimately the team sprint trains formed at the end of the 115.7 kilometre stage.
Annette Edmondson (Wiggle High5)packed a powerful punch and made it over the line first, relishing the home-town victory. It was two-time world champion Giorgia Bronzini, in her first race with her new Cylance Pro Cycling squad, that managed to grab second. The youngest member of UniSA Australia, Lauretta Hanson took the final podium place.
And while it was a great start to the year of racing and the 2.1 classified tour for some, things weren’t smooth sailing for others. There were riders limping into the finish of the first stage of the South Australian tour sporting blood and scratches from a number of crashes.
Macey Stewart (Wiggle High5) and Molly Weaver (Trek-Drops) were among those who fell on the run into the line and as it was within the last 3 kilometres got given the same time as the bunch. Others didn’t make it at all. Some of the names on the DNF list included Rebecca Wiasak (Holden Team Gusto) who crashed, and Anna Trevisi (Ale-Cipollini), who looks like she may have succumbed to the heat with temperatures of 38°C.
Here’s the Stage 1 highlights video from the Santos Women’s Tour:
Check out the key moments from today's thrilling Stage 1
Posted by Santos Tour Down Under on Thursday, 11 January 2018
And we had photographer Tim Bardsley-Smith out there to capture all the action for this gallery:
It’s a day for the climbers tomorrow, with a hilltop finish to the 101.2 kilometre stage which finishes at Mengler’s Hill.