Durbridge and Mullens win on stage 1 of the Santos Festival of Cycling
Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange) and Peta Mullens (Roxsolt Liv SRAM) have taken opening-day honours at the Santos Festival of Cycling in Adelaide.
In stage 1 of the women’s race, Mullens sprinted to a convincing win from a reduced bunch of 12 riders ahead of Ruby Roseman-Gannon (ARA) and Nicole Frain (Sydney Uni Staminade). The race split in the closing kilometres of a stage that featured three ascents of the Mengler Hill QOM. The biggest-name rider to miss the decisive split was Grace Brown (BikeExchange) – one of the pre-race favourites for overall success.
Mullens, a former Australian road, MTB and cyclocross champion, will lead the Santos Festival of Cycling into day 2 of the four-day race.
In the men’s race Luke Durbridge soloed clear of the bunch with more than 75 km to go in the 107 km stage. The former Australian road and time trial champion built a lead the extended to beyond four minutes as he tackled four ascents of Mengler Hill. He reached the finish in Tanunda more than two minutes clear of Raphael Freienstein (Inform TM Make), Damien Howson (BikeExchange), and the rest of a splintered field.
“I guess it wasn’t really the plan,” Durbridge said. “Obviously, there was big pressure on our shoulders, being the only WorldTour team here. All the boys are motivated and I’m just glad I could finish it off.
“I sort of said to myself ‘be a bit brave and go for it, [it’s] only 100 km’. But when I got out there and it’s 40º [C, 104ºF], 100 km is still a long way. I countered the sprint at the first intermediate and just sort of squeezed on a little bit and nobody really came with me.
“Then after I got a gap, I just sort of settled in. That’s my style, most of the time of the year I’m doing that on the front of the peloton, so as soon as I got the gap, I knew I could settle into a nice tempo.”
Durbridge leads the race overall by more than two minutes with three stages remaining.
The Santos Festival of Cycling is a four-stage National Road Series (NRS) race for men and women, contested by domestic riders and a handful of WorldTour professionals. It is being held in lieu of the Santos Tour Down Under, an event cancelled due to quarantine and border restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.