Even with an early victory celebration, the Italian won by several bike lengths over breakaway companions Shannon Malseed (solo) and Jessica Allen (ORICA-Scott) following an aggressive race around the hot dog circuit of Richie Boulevard.
"First of January. First win. Hopefully it will be a good year," Scandolara said. "It was a pretty hard race but with an amazing team like Alé today, it was less difficult. ORICA did a really hard race, attacking at every moment. I had to make sure to jump on them as soon as possible."
Allen launched the attack that inspired the race-winning move in the final five minutes of the 45-minute criterium. Malseed was the first to follow. Ever-attentive at the front, Scandolara closed the gap to Malseed's wheel. Within one lap of the 750-metre circuit, the trio had opened up six seconds over a tiring field.
Former Australian road champion and reigning Australian XCM MTB champion, Peta Mullens, racing for the first time with her new Hagens Berman Supermint squad, led the chase but her efforts were not enough to shut down the powerful trio.
"Shannon Malseed was the one working with me in the last breakaway and made it possible that we would stay away," said Scandolara. "In the last corner, I made sure I took it first so that I could manage my sprint and do it how I wanted."
The fastest sprinter in the breakaway, Scandolara had the win in hand 100 metres before the line. Malseed came second while Allen rounded out the podium.
No stranger to Australia
Scandolara raced for ORICA-AIS (now ORICA-Scott) for two seasons, in 2014-2015. Although she parted ways with the Australian-registered squad two years ago, she continues to spend the Australian summer racing Down Under. The style of racing suits her and her list of wins on Australian soil reflects her fast turn of speed: Santos Women's Tour (2015), Shimano SuperCrit (2015-2016), Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic – stage three (2016).
"I love Australia," she said. "I love training here. I have lots of friends here. The races give me good intensity and they're good fun. It's better than staying in Europe in winter."
"It's important to have good feelings in the beginning of the season," she added. "It's not hugely important for the season because it's so long and so far away, but it's always good for me to be here and see how I compare to the strong riders like ORICA."
Scandolara heads into the second day of the shortened three-day series with a four-point lead over Malseed and a two-point lead over Allen. Scandolara likes her chances for extending her lead in the yellow jersey in Portarlington on Monday.
"Tomorrow is a great stage for me," said Scandolara. "I like it. I won it last year. I will try to do my best to keep the jersey and possibly win tomorrow but no pressure. I'm just here to have fun."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Valentina Scandolara (Ita) Alé Cycling||12||pts|
|2||Shannon Malseed (Aus) Individual||10|
|3||Jessica Allen (Aus) Orica-Scott||8|
|4||Chloe Hosking (Aus) Alé Cycling||7|
|5||Peta Mullens (Aus) Hagens Berman | Supermint||6|
|6||Sarah Roy (Aus) Orica-Scott||5|
|7||Yumi Kajihara (Jpn) Novotel Geel / Japan||4|
|8||Amanda Spratt (Aus) Orica-Scott||3|
|9||Megan Alderete (USA) Hagens Berman | Supermint||2|
|10||Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Orica-Scott||1|