It didn't take long for Travis McCabe to open his winning account in the Pro-Continental ranks, with the UnitedHealthcare rider repeating his team's stage 3 win at the Herald Sun Tour from 12 months prior.
McCabe emerged from a frenetic and chaotic finale as the fastest finisher, putting away Orica-Scott’s Mitch Docker and Aqua Blue Sport's Leigh Howard. The win was the 27-year-old's first since the Tour of Utah last year.
"You always get the high when you win and this was no different. In January coming out here with the race and coming out with the win is awesome, so I am over the moon," McCabe reflected on his victory.
"We wanted to put someone in the break today because we knew it was going to come down to a sprint finish, we had a pretty good idea. When we put Adrian (Hegyvary) in the break that kind of took pressure off us to chase, so we know we have a strong team and wanted to use up all the guys at the end for the finish because we knew it was going to be really hairy.
"I had guys like Tanner Putt, Lachlan Norris, Jonny Clarke, everyone just taking care of me. We stayed calm and stayed out of trouble. With the last K to go it was up to me to get that win."
McCabe explained that staying calm, cool and composed as riders fell by the wayside and others were engaging in "head-butting and fighting” was as vital as his leg speed in securing the victory.
"First and only sprint stage of the race, everyone takes risks that they don't…you just take risks because it is part of the sport," he said. The finale was complicated by the peloton's late catch of the breakaway and technical run-in to Gerry Ryan's Mitchelton Winery.
"I saw two crashes in the last three K so with the wind, the cross wind and tail wind going back and forth for the last 20 K of the race it was pretty stressful and I think guys were just nervous."
McCabe added that having conserved as much energy as possible on the two road stages after his ninth place in the prologue, and the fact it was his first stage race with his new team made it a memorable win.
"It's up there, it is pretty high," he said of the first American win in 2017. "This and the Tour of Utah win I had last year are top two. It's great coming onto UHC, the first year, getting an early season win, really can't ask for anything else. It's fantastic."
With three riders in the top 18 on general classification ahead of the final stage around Kinglake, McCabe is likely to drop back into a supporting role for his teammates as UnitedHealthcare aim to cap off their Australian block of racing in style with a late shakedown of the standings.