Google Maps research and an extensive recon of the Herald Sun Tour prologue course on the banks of the Yarra River proved extremely valuable for Ed Clancy. A triple Olympic gold medalist on the track, Clancy's preparation was vital in his win by seven-hundredths of a second over Mads Pedersen. It was Clancy's first professional win on the road, and with it, a debut race leader's jersey.
With the race decided by less than a second, Clancy's research of the adjusted parcours, which was reduced this year to 1.6 kilometers from 2.1 in 2017, proved to be the winning edge.
"I spent a lot of time thinking about it, looking at it on Google maps because I have never done this course before, trying to suss out the corners and road surface and so on," Clancy explained. "I just broke it down into three parts. There was easy time to be made off the line. There was easy time to be made accelerating in that first left-hander, assuming you don't crash around it either. Then I figured it being moderately technical around the footpath that as long as you commit and hope for the best, it would be much of a muchness around there. Then it just comes down to a drag race in the last five hundred metres. In the last five hundred metres, it felt like I was pedalling in sand. Speaking to a few other guys, it was the same story. It worked out and it was a tense hour but I am dead happy."
Clancy's time in the hot seat was equivalent to over 50 of his race-winning rides but well worth the wait. The course recon and time on google maps made the difference.
“I am absolutely buzzing honestly. I am used to riding on the track with Team GB and you try to keep it fresh but there is this sort of expectation to go out there and get world medals and Olympic medals," he said. "You almost become accustomed to it even after a decade. On the road, this is still new to me. This is big for a guy like me and perhaps as big as it is going to get. I am over the moon and I can't wait to ride around in the yellow jersey tomorrow. I think everyone here knows what I am about and no one is expecting me to take on Chaves on stage 3, so I am going to enjoy my day in yellow."
Of his team pursuit Olympic medal-winning teammates, the Barnsley born Clancy hasn't pursued a road career in the same manner of Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas or Peter Kennaugh. Clancy now has a yellow jersey to match Wiggins' from the 2009 Herald Sun Tour, a year after the duo's gold medal in Beijing, but at 32 Clancy isn't considering a late discipline change.
"Geraint Thomas, Brad Wiggins and those team pursuit boys that went well on the road are much more endurance riders than I have ever been," he said. "I could almost switch the other way and go team sprint. That is perhaps more my physical capabilities, to be honest than trying to get around the Tour de France. Let alone win the thing. Let the good times roll."
On the 161.6 kilometre stage 1 to Warrnambool along rolling roads with a potential for crosswinds, Clancy's road capabilities will be put to the test. On his chances of retaining yellow, Clancy stated that "If I was a betting man, I would say probably not. That doesn't mean I am not going to try."
With all six of Clancy's JLT Condor teammates within eight seconds of his lead and bonus seconds on the line, the jersey could well remain with the team. One rider the team would have been riding for regardless of the yellow jersey for the suspected bunch sprint finish was Jason Lowndes. The 23-year-old was killed after being struck by a car the week before Christmas in his hometown of Bendigo. It should come as no surprise then that Clancy's win was dedicated to Lowndes.
"I don't know if it is inappropriate for me to dedicate the win to Jason. I didn't know him personally. I am pretty quiet on the social media front but I keep my ear to the ground, you hear the stories about how strong and brave his friends and family have been. It is quite humbling. I wish Jason was here," said Clancy who has spent the last three weeks in Bendigo training.
"We know Jason was a talent and would have done the same and would have been one of the boys. In different circumstances, we'd be sitting down tonight, yellow jersey or not for me, and working out the plan for the sprint with Jason. That would have been his role in the team.
"My thoughts are with his friends and family.”