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ADELAIDE, Australia (CT) – Chloe Hosking had all the time in the world. With 50 metres to go she sat up, stopped pedalling, and threw both arms up in delight.
She had every reason to be thrilled. She’d won on her first outing with her new Rally team, bossing the sprint into Macclesfield to take the opening stage of the Women’s Tour Down Under. She’d won by several bike lengths too — a clear win from the clear pre-stage favourite.
As the old sporting cliche goes, there can only be one winner. On that day, Hosking was it. Except that she wasn’t the only winner. She wasn’t the only one celebrating success. She wasn’t the only one gesturing her delight to the world.
A modest crowd lined the roadside at Knotts Hill, smartphones at the ready as police vehicles sped by. A moment later, Marieke van Witzenberg came slowly into view, neutral service and a TV moto providing the lone leader with some semblance of company.
With the peloton hot on her heels, the Dutchwoman surged up the final few ramps to the QOM line to secure maximum points and with it, a day in the polka dot jersey. The 34-year-old offered five quick pumps of her right fist then settled back into a rhythm, trying to hold the peloton at bay.
She’d be caught a short time later but that was of little concern — for her and her Doltcini-Van Eyck squad, it was a case of job done. They’d come to the race with a goal of being aggressive and they’d done just that. The QOM jersey was a satisfying reward for their efforts; a win in and of itself.
“I didn’t expect to reach the top on my own,” Van Witzenberg told CyclingTips. “When I attacked, it was just to show some attractive racing and just see what happens.
“Because for us, it’s wintertime — we’re not in shape yet. So I attacked and I looked back and I was alone. So I didn’t think I would be able to hold that long. But yeah, that’s why I was so happy.”
A couple hours after Van Witzenberg’s celebration, as Hosking thundered into Macclesfield, a battle was on behind her. Lotta Henttala (Trek-Segafredo) had sewn up second place, but third on the stage was still up for grabs.
Matilda Raynolds (Specialized Women’s Racing) led the rest of the bunch into the final stretch but quickly found herself exposed. With nothing but wind between her and the pair ahead, it was a case of hanging on for dear life.
Other sprinters surged from behind but Raynolds held a narrow lead to the finish. Fifty metres past the line, when she was sure of the result, she threw her right fist in the air, celebrating her podium finish.
“I think it’s a huge result for a domestic team, and particularly with some of the … big teams that are here,” Raynolds said later. “So to have a podium — it’s our team, Specialized Women’s Racing’s first podium at the Women’s Tour Down Under ever. So it’s really exciting. That’s a very challenging thing for us to do with these teams.”
Raynolds hadn’t won the stage; nor had Van Witzenberg. But winning isn’t always about who crosses the line first.