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MACCLESFIELD, Australia (CT) – It ended the way it was always likely to — with Chloe Hosking (Rally) winning a bunch sprint. But it very nearly didn’t. It was very nearly a single rider that stole the show on stage 1 of the 2020 Women’s Tour Down Under.
“Everyone’s like ‘It’s going to be a bunch sprint’, but that doesn’t mean, you’ve got to sit around for a hundred k’s,” said Australia’s Brodie Chapman (FDJ) after attacking late and almost holding off the peloton.
“That’s exciting racing, no? That would have been fun to watch!,” she said. “So that’s what it’s all about. I gave it everything I had left. I can’t control the peloton, only my legs. So I was just trying to have a good time and try to take it all of the way to the line. But yeah the peloton was very keen on a bunch sprint.”
Chapman made her move with 40 km to go, latching on to an attack from former Swiss champion Nicole Hanselmann (Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport). It was one of those moves that just kind of happened.
“I was getting the itch; I was getting the vibe,” Chapman said. “And I’m like, it’s kind of a random moment. So I went across and then we rode together for a while and yeah, it was fun.”
Chapman was having more fun that Hanselmann was. Clearly the stronger of the two, Chapman jettisoned her Swiss companion with around 30 km to go and forged on alone.
It was strange that the peloton had let a rider of Chapman’s class get away to begin with. But when there was 20 km left to race and the lone leader had eked out an advantage of 2:45, the peloton seemed to realise its mistake.
Sunweb, Rally and Trek-Segafredo all came to the front en masse, riding in support of their sprinters. Mitchelton-Scott pitched in with the chase as well, keen not to be put on the backfoot in the GC battle.
As stage-winner Hosking confirmed after the podium presentation, it was a moment of genuine concern — there was a very real chance that Chapman could stay away.
“Oh, absolutely,” she said. “All of a sudden, her gap was two minutes with 20 k to go. A good rule of thumb is a minute every 10 k. So that was a worry. There was a crosswind section so along with Trek and Rally [the peloton] started rolling and really pushing the pace there.”
Chapman was slowly reeled in. With 10 km to the former mountain biker had a touch over one minute. With 7.5 km remaining, the gap was down to around 30 seconds. It seemed the catch was imminent.
But Chapman never gave up. Even with the bunch breathing down her neck, she battled on as best she could. It was only inside the final kilometre that she was finally absorbed by the peloton; a peloton surging towards a bunch sprint.
It might have been Hosking’s first race with her new team, but she and her Rally teammates had no issues in striking gold immediately.
“We knew it was a really technical finish so I was really clear to the girls that, you know, don’t worry about being my last lead out or whatever,” Hosking said. “Just get me into this technical bit at the front and that’s exactly what they did.
“So with two k to go, I was perfectly positioned and then I was just confident that I could surf wheels. So I jumped onto Lotta [Henttala’s] wheel as we were coming around this bottom corner. I knew it was a long way to the finish so I sort of got there, sat, and then went again.”
When she did, Hosking made it look easy, putting several lengths between herself and Henttala (née Lepisto) by the finish line. Matilda Raynolds (Specialized Women’s Racing) rounded out the podium by finishing third.
For Hosking it’s been a near-perfect start to the year. At the Bay Crits she won two stages and the overall; at the Australian Nationals she took out her first criterium title and finished a career-best fifth in the road race. And now, she has her fourth stage win at the Women’s Tour Down Under.
“It’s a pleasant surprise, to be honest, because this really hasn’t been a huge target for me,” Hosking said of the Australian summer. “I’ve put in the work and I just keep ticking the days over. But I didn’t come into the Aussie summer specifically targeting it.
“Having said that, I love winning at home. So it’s really nice that it has started so well. And I just really hope I can keep the momentum going.”
Hosking’s win gives her the leader’s ochre jersey with three stages remaining. She’s vowed to hold on to it as best she can.
“I have to look closely at the course and I’ll for sure try and defend the jersey,” she said. “I’ll be looking to pick up seconds in the intermediate sprints.”
In a race that lacks a proper uphill finish, those time bonuses could prove crucial. With a 10-second time bonus for today’s win, Hosking now leads the race by four seconds over Henttala. Leah Kirchmann (Sunweb) is third, at six seconds, having been one of several riders vying for bonus time at the intermediate sprints.
For Chapman, today’s stage was a case of so close yet so far. Out front on her own she’d been thinking of Amanda Spratt and Annemiek van Vleuten, trying to channel the impressive solo rides each have put in in recent years. Had she won the stage it might have made her a big threat for the general classification. As it was she put on a great show and contributed to an aggressive and entertaining race; a race that’s been livestreamed for the first time in its five-year history.
“I’m really stoked that our race is being streamed and people can watch,” Chapman said. “So I’m glad they got to see a good bunch sprint and a technical finish … and they also got to see what might have happened if maybe I’d made it.
“But I didn’t today. Next time.”
General Classification after stage 1