Nikias Arndt continued the traditional of European riders getting the better of Australians at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race with the German timing his run to the line to pip Cam Meyer, after his late flyer, and the fast finish of Simon Gerrans (Orica Scott).
Despite repeated efforts on the final circuit around Geelong, the peloton couldn't shake the fast men and it was Arndt who took the spoils and opened Team Sunweb's account for season 2017. Having had to wait until May for a WorldTour win, Sunweb have ensured a winning start to the season Down Under with victory in the first one-day WorldTour race of the season.
Gerrans, fifth last year, explained that a lack of teammates for the favourites ensured a frentic finale as he just came up short for his first win of the season.
"No one really had any teammates left so it was a really dicey sprint with everyone ducking for wheels and trying to get out of the wind. Nikias went from a long way out and did the whole sprint in the seat and in the end, I had nothing left and just couldn't get past him," Gerrans said in a flash TV interview.
With the largest group yet in three editions of the race all together at the start of the final lap around Geelong, a tactical 20km saw numerous attempts from riders to shake things up across the climbs. In the end though, the race was decided at almost the final possible moment like a film plot revealed in the final frame.
Agressive racing and late attacks from the likes Richie Porte, Nathan Haas, Chris Froome, and Rafa Valls all proved to be an entree for the final kilometre which almost saw Meyer cap his comeback with a triumphant win but it was the unfancied Arndt who proved the canniest of the lot to steal in and take out the victory.
How it unfolded
On the start line for the first edition of the race at WorldTour level were 126-riders ready to rock'n'roll in almost ideal racing weather conditions. With Cadel Evans leading the peloton through the intermediate kilometres, he peeled off as race director Scott Sunderland dropped the flag to get things going.
Conor Dunne, on his debut for Aqua Blue Sports, launched the breakaway with Kordamentha-Australia's Alex Porter, Ángel Vicioso (Katusha-Alpecin) and Gazprom-RusVelo's Kirill Sveshnikov joining him at the head of the race. The quartet quickly built a lead over the peloton who were content to roll along at just over 25mk/h. The leaders had an advantage over 10:30 minutes 30km into the race which was when BMC, Orica-Scott and Bora-Hansgrohe decided to send men to bring things back under control.
At the first intermediate sprint point, Dunne made a move via the inside line but it was too far out for the Irishman with Porter pulling him back just before the line to snare the three points. With Porter holding the advantage, there was no contest for the second intermediate sprint point as Porter hit out, checked his rivals and realising no one was contesting, easily took the points, and the classification.
The breakaway then resumed its earlier approach of swapping off turns and working well together. Having enjoyed its 10-plus minute advantage, the peloton decided it wanted a more comfortable gap of around five minutes, which was the lead when the race hit the first KOM point at Bells Beach.
Back in the bunch, the heads of state decided it was content with a lead around the four-minute mark to ensure the catch wouldn't be made too soon. The breakaway had other ideas and quickly grabbed one minute. Once the peloton enjoyed its lunch of Panini and energy gels and bars, Orica, BMC and Bora, with assistance from Dimension Data, they upped the effort to bring the break back within comfortable distance.
BMC's Damiano Caruso decided to test his legs with 65km to race and caused the first selection in the peloton with the breakaway's lead being severely cut down to just 1:40 minutes. The move split the head of the peloton with a group of around 20 getting clear before a regrouping and numerous counter attacks that came to nought.
Approaching Challambra Crescent for the first time, it was Bora driving hard for Jay McCarthy and cutting the lead to the breakaway down to just 40 seconds. On the climb Sveshnikov lost contact with Vicioso intent on chasing the KOM points but it was Dunne who snuck in and took the spoils. Dunne and Porter continued to fly the flag for the breakaway as the peloton closed in for the kill.
Team Sky's Danny van Poppel and AG2R-La Mondiale's Francois Bidard attacked off the front of the peloton to ensure their respective teams had men up the road. That move failed but didn't deter Cameron Bayly of the national team as he launched an attack in a bid to join the two leaders. Calvin Watson took up chase of his teammate Dunne who continued to survive out in front with Porter.
Unlike Bayly, Watson successfully made the bridge across to the two leaders who had an advantage of 1:07 minutes under the start/finish line for two laps to go. however, on the second ascent of Challambra Crescent the break was done and dusted. Sebastián Henao (Sky) started the attack on the climb with Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac) joining the Colombian as Dunne confirming his win in the KOM classification.
Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott) and Rohan Dennis (BMC) bridged to make a four-man leading break. The ingredients weren't right though as Jhonatan Restrepo made contact just before the peloton reeled them in. Henao then crashed around a roundabout with just over 20km to race, but quickly recovered, with Lachlan Morton (Dimension Data) leading the peloton over for the bell lap.
A flurry of attacks continued with Mads Pedersen particularly aggressive before Challambra. On the climb, Kenny Elissonde launched first but couldn't hold on, like Peter Kennaugh did last year and was caught over the summit. A Jan Bakelants front wheel wash out caused a minor split in the peloton but that didn't stop an aggressive finale.
Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), Sergio Henao (Sky) and Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) rolled the dice with a late attack to cause a selection with 10km. BMC'S Richie Porte and Lucas Hamilton jumped across with Rafa Valls (Lotto Soudal) following. Porte continued be to aggressive, as did Haas, but with 5km to race a large group was together and moving all over the road.
Froome tried a late move with Haas, Gesink and Valls jumping on his wheel before Porte launched a counter attack and looked like holding on for the win. Inspired by teammate Miles Scoston at the national titles, Porte was digging deep with his solo time trial effort that was matched by Froome to ensure it was a doomed move.
"When it didn't happen in the climb I thought to myself that I really want to win this race so I have to attack. I did a nice little attack but at the end of the day it didn't quite pay off, but still a good way to start the season by winning the Santos Tour Down Under and come here and have a bit of fun," Porte explained of his move.
Bauer launched the first counter attack before Meyer made his move at around 800 metres, and looked to hang on for a famous victory. However, Arndt had other ideas and inside the final 10 metres he jumped the Australian and held off the fast finishing Gerrans for his first win on Australian soil and first win since May's Giro d'Italia.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb||4:19:15|
|2||Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-Scott|
|3||Cameron Meyer (Aus) KordaMentha Real Estate Australian National Team|
|4||Jhonatan Restrepo (Col) Katusha-Alpecin|
|5||Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky|
|6||Petr Vakoc (Cze) Quick-Step Floors|
|7||Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data|
|8||Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Quick-Step Floors|
|9||Jay Mccarthy (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|10||Paul Martens (Ger) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|11||Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|12||Rafael Valls (Spa) Lotto Soudal|
|13||Sven Erik Bystrom (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin|
|14||Lucas Hamilton (Aus) KordaMentha Real Estate Australian National Team|
|15||Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale-Drapac|
|16||Jai Hindley (Aus) KordaMentha Real Estate Australian National Team|
|17||Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale|
|18||Michael Storer (Aus) KordaMentha Real Estate Australian National Team|
|19||Janier Alexis Acevedo Calle (Col) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team|
|20||Brendan Canty (Aus) Cannondale-Drapac|
|21||Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team|
|22||Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky|
|23||Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors|
|24||Jack Bauer (NZl) Quick-Step Floors||0:00:18|
|25||Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin||0:00:37|
|26||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|27||Aaron Gate (NZl) Aqua Blue Sport|
|28||Gregor Muhlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|29||James Shaw (GBr) Lotto Soudal|
|30||Patrick Bevin (NZl) Cannondale-Drapac|
|31||Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Lotto Soudal|
|32||Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac|
|33||Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team|
|34||Pavel Brutt (Rus) Gazprom - RusVelo|
|35||Sjoerd Van Ginneken (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij|
|36||Alexey Vermeulen (USA) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|37||Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team|
|38||Mitch Docker (Aus) Orica-Scott|
|39||Clement Chevrier (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|40||Tiago Machado (Por) Katusha-Alpecin|
|41||Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale|
|42||Jonathan Clarke (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team|
|43||Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|44||Lachlan Norris (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team|
|45||Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|46||José Gonçalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin|
|47||Koen De Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo||0:00:42|
|48||Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Sunweb|
|49||Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky||0:00:43|
|50||Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Trek-Segafredo|
|51||Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb|
|52||Damien Howson (Aus) Orica-Scott||0:00:45|
|53||Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-Scott||0:00:47|
|54||Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-Scott||0:00:54|
|55||Cameron Bayley (Aus) KordaMentha Real Estate Australian National Team||0:01:14|
|56||Julien Berard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:01:56|
|57||Peter Stetina (USA) Trek-Segafredo||0:01:57|
|58||Jesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij||0:02:11|
|59||Leigh Howard (Aus) Aqua Blue Sport|
|60||Scott Bowden (Aus) KordaMentha Real Estate Australian National Team|
|61||Lawrence Warbasse (USA) Aqua Blue Sport|
|62||Jeroen Meijers (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij|
|63||Travis McCabe (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team|
|64||Michael Hepburn (Aus) Orica-Scott|
|65||Koen Bouwman (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo||0:03:47|
|66||Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo||0:04:18|
|67||Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Katusha-Alpecin||0:05:22|
|68||Kenny Elissonde (Fra) Team Sky||0:05:32|
|69||Sebastian Henao (Col) Team Sky|
|70||Ben O'Connor (Aus) Dimension Data||0:05:49|
|71||Peter Koning (Ned) Aqua Blue Sport|
|72||Chris Hamilton (Aus) Team Sunweb|
|73||Rudiger Selig (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|74||Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|75||Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|76||Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data|
|77||Alexander Porter (Aus) KordaMentha Real Estate Australian National Team|
|78||Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale||0:07:02|
|79||Taco Van Der Hoorn (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij|
|80||Tim Ariesen (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij|
|81||Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|82||Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij|
|83||Sergey Nikolaev (Rus) Gazprom - RusVelo|
|84||François Bidard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|85||Alex Howes (USA) Cannondale-Drapac|
|86||Martijn Tusveld (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij|
|87||Conor Dunne (Irl) Aqua Blue Sport|
|88||Martin Velits (Svk) Quick-Step Floors|
|89||Robert Wagner (Ger) Team LottoNl-Jumbo|
|90||Lennard Hofstede (Ned) Team Sunweb|
|91||Michel Kreder (Ned) Aqua Blue Sport|
|92||Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors|
|93||Amael Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team|
|94||Tanner Putt (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team|
|95||Miles Scotson (Aus) BMC Racing Team|
|96||Rohan Denis (Aus) BMC Racing Team|
|97||Lukas Postlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:11:07|
|98||Lachlan Morton (Aus) Dimension Data|
|99||Calvin Watson (Aus) Aqua Blue Sport||0:12:38|
|100||Ivan Savitckii (Rus) Gazprom - RusVelo|
|101||Artur Ershov (Rus) Gazprom - RusVelo|
|102||Jaco Venter (RSA) Dimension Data|
|103||Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale||0:14:30|
|DNF||Francisco Ventoso (Spa) BMC Racing Team|
|DNF||Sam Bewley (NZl) Orica-Scott|
|DNF||Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Michal Kolar (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Tyler Farrar (USA) Dimension Data|
|DNF||Mark Renshaw (Aus) Dimension Data|
|DNF||Sean De Bie (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Adam James Hansen (Aus) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Angel Vicioso (Spa) Katusha-Alpecin|
|DNF||Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Team Sky|
|DNF||Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky|
|DNF||Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Team Sunweb|
|DNF||Johannes Frohlinger (Ger) Team Sunweb|
|DNF||Ruben Guerreiro (Por) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Laurent Didier (Lux) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||William Clarke (Aus) Cannondale-Drapac|
|DNF||Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac|
|DNF||Eros Capecchi (Ita) Quick-Step Floors|
|DNF||Kirill Sveshnikov (Rus) Gazprom - RusVelo|
|DNF||Aleksei Tcatevich (Rus) Gazprom - RusVelo|
|DNF||Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Gazprom - RusVelo|
|DNF||Adrian Hegyvary (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team|
|DNF||Greg Henderson (NZl) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team|