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TORQUAY, Australia (CT) – “Finally a break stuck!” gasped Brodie Chapman (FDJ) as she rolled towards the podium on Torquay’s beachside esplanade. Moments earlier she’d crossed the finish line with her arms aloft, celebrating a hard-earned and well-deserved solo victory.
She was the day’s most aggressive rider, attacking on lap 5 of the eight-lap course on Victoria’s Surf Coast, and being joined only by Chilean champ Denise Ahumada (Agolico). As the hot summer sun beat down Chapman was soon on her own and victory looked very unlikely. It looked like a repeat of stage 1 of the Women’s Tour Down Under — a stage where Chapman’s solo break was caught inside the final kilometre.
“I was like, ‘no, don’t be that predictable rider that just goes by herself until she doesn’t,’” Chapman said. “I didn’t think I’d be out there as long but, you know, I guess you just gotta make decisions on the fly. And that’s what I had to do today.”
On lap 7 the American Lauren Stephens (Tibco) came across and helped a flagging Chapman to rally. And then at the start of the final lap Emily Herfoss (Roxsolt-Attaquer) and Tayler Wiles (Trek-Segafredo) bridged across as well.
“When I heard Lauren was coming across and then she told me that Tayler and Emily [were too] I was like, ‘that’s like the most perfect breakaway on paper,’” Chapman said. “So chapeau to those girls — super strong. I really like how they race as well.”
The leading quartet worked well together … until they didn’t. With just a few kilometres remaining, and with the Sunweb-led peloton just 30 seconds behind, the game of cat-and-mouse began out front. And then a moment of hesitation in the lead group allowed Chapman to get clear again.
“I didn’t come to this race today being like ‘I’m going to try and win by myself,’” Chapman said. “But I came through the corner first and then I just kind of looked behind to see who would roll through next and I had a bit of a gap and I was like, ‘pfff, I’m just gonna hit it.’ So I did.
“And then I was like, ‘Oh, 2 k’s, it’s alright, I can empty the tank now because after 2 k’s I get to stop.”
With 100 metres to go Chapman had enough time to look back, sit up, and celebrate emphatically. Herfoss was second across the line, four seconds later, having attacked the group with 1 km to go. Wiles was third, another two seconds back, while Stephens finished fourth, at 11 seconds. Pre-race favourite Chloe Hosking (Rally) led the peloton home in fifth place, 26 seconds behind Chapman.
Chapman admitted afterwards that she’d struggled early in the race, particularly in temperatures that nudged 35ºC.
“I often struggle in the first part of the race with all the intensity,” Chapman said. “And as the race goes on, I find a bit of a rhythm and it really does come down to some self-talk.
“I was like, ‘Look, I know I have all these negative feelings in my body of heat and exhaustion’, but I was like, ‘just tell yourself your legs are good and keep drinking, keep eating, and breathe out’ and that kind of stuff.”
It paid off and Chapman was able to take what is arguably the biggest victory of her career. And all in the presence of family, no less.
“Unfortunately, one of our soigneurs wasn’t able to feed today so my dad came here from Melbourne and my mum came down from Brisbane,” she said. “And I rarely get to see my family because we live all over Australia. So it was awesome to have him in the feed zone and he kept saying, ‘come on, keep pushing’ and giving me bottles and yeah — that makes it so special.”