Cuba's Arlenis Sierra (Astana) got the better of Mitchelton-Scott pair Lucy Kennedy and Amanda Spratt to win the women's edition of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Geelong, Australia, with a powerful solo move on Australia Day on Saturday.
Sierra – a sprinter who is also capable of getting over the climbs, as her win on the final stage of the Tour of Guangxi at the end of last season demonstrated – was able to join a front group of five riders on the descent off the Challamabra Crescent climb inside the final 10 kilometres of the race, and then dropped Kennedy after the two riders had ridden clear with six kilometres left to race.
While a stricken Kennedy waited for her teammate Spratt to join her before giving it everything, the two Mitchelton riders weren't able to close the gap, coming across the line in second and third place, 19 seconds behind Sierra.
CCC-Liv's Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio – who had attacked on Challambra to take Spratt, Kennedy, Tibco-SVB's Brodie Chapman and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) with her – was the best of the rest another 15 seconds back.
The intermediate sprint at Barwon Heads, with 90km of the 113km race to go, was won by defending champion Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini) in a head-to-head sprint with BePink's Rachele Barbieri, and proved to be the catalyst for a flurry of the race's first attacks, although none were ever allowed much headway.
A solo effort by Barbieri almost 10km further on, however, was the first move to put any daylight between it and the bunch, although it was always going to be a long way for a solo rider at that point.
The Italian built up a 45-second lead, but it quickly plummeted again when Hosking's Ale Cipollini teammates got the bit between their teeth approaching the second intermediate sprint at Torquay. Barbieri was swept up, and Hosking made it two sprints out of two.
Barbieri's BePink team were quickly back in action again: right after the second intermediate sprint, Silvia Valsecchi attacked, and again was left to go solo, but never allowed to get as much leeway as Barbieri with the first 'queen of the mountains' climb on the way out of Bells Beach.
Once Valsecchi was caught, Rally UHC's Krista Doebel-Hickok easily took the QOM, and was then content to slip back into the bunch as the race dipped under 60km to go.
For a third time, it was BePink on the attack – this time through Dutchwoman Nicole Steigenga, building up a 45-second gap with 45km to go, and for the first time provoking some activity from the bunch, with teams looking to get riders into a move.
Steigenga was nevertheless allowed to stretch her lead towards the two-minute mark, with few of the favourites yet to show themselves, other than defending champion Hosking at the intermediate sprints.
Going under 30km to go, Mitchelton-Scott came to the front for the first time, with Sarah Roy at the head of affairs, with team leader Spratt unexpectedly doing some of the work, perhaps frustrated at what had been a relatively easy race up to this point.
Trek-Segafredo clearly concurred, and also assisted at the front of the race, and for the first time riders began to get shelled out of the back of the race, as Steigenga's advantage began to plummet, and it was all over for her at just over 20km to go.
Defending champion's bad luck
Under pressure from Grace Brown and Sarah Kennedy, Mitchelton-Scott were able to put an increasing number of riders under pressure, and a badly timed mechanical problem for Hosking put her in the impossible position of trying to chase back on to a race that was by now truly on, stretched out into single file and continuing to lose riders out of the back on the approach to Geelong and the day's main climb of Challambra Crescent.
Onto the climb with 10km to go, CCC's Moolman-Pasio put in the first attack, powering clear with Longo Borghini on her wheel, followed by Spratt, with the three going clear, but with Kennedy and Chapman – the 2018 women's Herald Sun Tour winner – coming across to join them.
Chapman was in fact the first rider across the top of the climb, and it looked as though it was going to be decided between those five riders – Kennedy, Spratt, Moolman-Pasio, Chapman and Long Borghini – until Sierra joined them on the descent.
On the next, shorter, climb, Spratt attacked, with Moolman-Pasio the first to react. Kennedy was next to go, which put Chapman into trouble, with 6km to go, with Sierra able to come across on the next flat section.
Kennedy refused to work, perhaps knowing that Sierra would be stronger in a sprint, and hoping that Spratt could come back so that the two teammates could play the numbers game.
However, with the kilometres ticking down, Sierra simply rode Kennedy off her wheel with 4km to go, and the Australian was left in no-man's land, and forced to wait for Spratt.
Sierra goes solo
After Spratt attacked Moolman-Pasio, Longo Borghini and Chapman with 3km left to race, Kennedy and Spratt joined forces to chase down Sierra – but it was too little, too late, and the Cuban still held a 20-second lead going into the final kilometre, losing just one more second thanks to her delighted, two-armed salute on the line.
"Those last 20-25km were really hard," second-placed Kennedy said at the finish. "I could tell from the beginning that I had good legs, but Arlenis was super strong and I couldn't quite get there.
"There are pros and cons to being on the team that everyone looks to [Mitchelton-Scott], and we made the final hard, but couldn't quite pull off the win," said Kennedy.
"Arlenis had a great race," added Spratt. "I knew she was a great rider, so all credit to her. We had a fair amount of pressure – a lot of responsibility, whether we wanted it or not – and we just did our best to try to make the last 30km as hard as possible."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Arlenis Sierra (Cub) Astana Women's Team||3:07:10|
|2||Lucy Kennedy (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott Women||0:00:19|
|3||Amanda Spratt (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott Women|
|4||Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) CCC-Liv||0:00:34|
|5||Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo Women|
|6||Brodie Chapman (Aus) Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank|
|7||Rachel Neylan (Aus) KordaMenthe Real Estate||0:00:39|
|8||Emily Roper (Aus) KordaMenthe Real Estate||0:00:55|
|9||Ruth Winder (USA) Trek-Segafredo Women|
|10||Grace Brown (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott Women|
|11||Riejanne Markus (Ned) CCC-Liv|
|12||Jeanne Korevaar (Ned) CCC-Liv|
|13||Alison Jackson (Can) Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank|
|14||Elena Pirrone (Ita) Astana Women's Team|
|15||Matilda Raynolds (Aus) Specialized Women's Racing|
|16||Rebecca Wiasak (Aus) KordaMenthe Real Estate|
|17||Sara Bergen (Can) Rally UHC Cycling Women|
|18||Deborah Paine (NZl) New Zealand|
|19||Romy Kasper (Ger) Ale Cipollini|
|20||Krista Doebel-Hickok (USA) Rally UHC Cycling Women|
|21||Jaime Gunning (Aus) Specialized Women's Racing|
|22||Jannie Milena Salcedo Zambrano (Col) Swapit Agolico|
|23||Andrea Ramírez Fregoso (Mex) Swapit Agolico|
|24||Francesca Pattaro (Ita) BePink|
|25||Taryn Heather (Aus) Specialized Women's Racing|
|26||Tetyana Riabchenko (Ukr) Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport|
|27||Eri Yonamine (Jpn) Ale Cipollini|
|28||Lizzie Stannard (Aus) Gusto StepFWD KOM|
|29||Sharlotte Lucas (NZl) Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank|
|30||Lauren Stephens (USA) Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank||0:01:04|
|31||Jessica Pratt (Aus) Sydney Uni-Staminade||0:01:19|
|32||Chloe Hosking (Aus) Ale Cipollini|
|33||Allison Beveridge (Can) Rally UHC Cycling Women||0:02:03|
|34||Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Aus) KordaMenthe Real Estate|
|35||Lizbeth Yareli Salazar Vazquez (Mex) Astana Women's Team|
|36||Emily Watts (Aus) Sydney Uni-Staminade|
|37||Bryony van Velzen (Ned) Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport|
|38||Valerie Demey (Bel) CCC-Liv|
|39||Georgia Williams (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott Women|
|40||Agnieszka Skalniak (Pol) CCC-Liv|
|41||Katia Ragusa (Ita) BePink|
|42||Elyse Fraser (NZl) New Zealand|
|43||Kirsty McCullum (NZl) New Zealand|
|44||Ella Bloor (Aus) Specialized Women's Racing|
|45||Daniela Reis (Por) Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport||0:02:07|
|46||Holly Ann Harris (Aus) Specialized Women's Racing|
|47||Vicki Whitelaw (Aus) Sydney Uni-Staminade|
|48||Shannon Malseed (Aus) Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank||0:03:15|
|49||Maria Jose Vargas Barrientos (CRc) Swapit Agolico|
|50||Tayler Wiles (USA) Trek-Segafredo Women||0:03:23|
|51||Carolina Rodriguez Gutierrez (Mex) Astana Women's Team|
|52||Abigail Chloe Morton (NZl) New Zealand||0:03:59|
|53||Heidi Franz (USA) Rally UHC Cycling Women||0:04:03|
|54||Jesse Vandenbulcke (Bel) Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport||0:04:12|
|55||Alice Cobb (GBr) Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank|
|56||Marie-Soleil Blais (Can) Astana Women's Team|
|57||Evy Kuijpers (Ned) CCC-Liv|
|58||Annamarie Lipp (NZl) New Zealand||0:05:07|
|59||Jeydy Pradera Bernal (Cub) Astana Women's Team|
|60||Summer Moak (USA) Rally UHC Cycling Women|
|61||Georgia Whitehouse (Aus) KordaMenthe Real Estate|
|62||Paola Andrea Munoz Grandon (Chi) Swapit Agolico||0:05:45|
|63||Ione Johnson (NZl) New Zealand|
|64||Brenda Andrea Santoyo Perez (Mex) Swapit Agolico|
|65||Lauretta Hanson (Aus) Trek-Segafredo Women||0:07:04|
|66||Lotta Pauliina Lepistö (Fin) Trek-Segafredo Women|
|67||Silvia Valsecchi (Ita) BePink|
|68||Gillian Ellsay (Can) Rally UHC Cycling Women|
|69||Nadia Quagliotto (Ita) Ale Cipollini||0:07:18|
|70||Anet Barrera Esparza (Mex) Swapit Agolico|
|71||Nicole Steigenga (Ned) BePink||0:07:59|
|72||Jennifer Pettenon (Aus) Gusto StepFWD KOM||0:08:27|
|73||Sarah Gigante (Aus) KordaMenthe Real Estate||0:09:11|
|74||Jessica Allen (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott Women|
|75||Sarah Roy (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott Women|
|76||Anna Booth (Aus) Sydney Uni-Staminade|
|77||Briony Mattocks (Aus) Specialized Women's Racing|
|78||Marjolein Van'T Geloof (Ned) Ale Cipollini|
|79||Tereza Medvedova (Svk) BePink|
|80||Anisha Vekemans (Bel) Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport|
|81||Victoire Berteau (Fra) Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport||0:09:37|
|82||Jessica Mundy (Aus) Gusto StepFWD KOM|
|83||Jessica Raimondi (Ita) Ale Cipollini||0:13:00|
|DNF||Amy Vesty (NZl) Sydney Uni-Staminade|
|DNF||Jennifer Darmody (Aus) Sydney Uni-Staminade|
|DNF||Rachele Barbieri (Ita) BePink|
|DNF||Abi Van Twisk (GBr) Trek-Segafredo Women|
|DNF||Erin Kinnealy (Aus) Gusto StepFWD KOM|
|DNF||Kendelle Hodges (Aus) Gusto StepFWD KOM|
|DNF||Jemma Eastwood (Aus) Gusto StepFWD KOM|