Twenty-two-year-old Caleb Ewan sprinted to the win in Williamstown on the final day of racing at the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic.
It was a two-man race down the finishing stretch with Brenton Jones (JLT Condor) locked onto Ewan's wheel and the rest of the peloton distanced. Although Jones managed to stay in Ewan's slipstream on the run-in the line, Ewan easily held off Jones in the sprint.
It is Ewan's 11th stage victory over five years of Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic racing, his third on the fast, flat seaside Williamstown course.
"I think my success here has been down to committing pretty early," Ewan told reporters, including Cyclingnews, following podium presentations. "I start my sprint more than 300 metres out. I don't know why it still catches people out because I've done it the last few years. As long as I keep doing that and getting to that corner first, I'm pretty positive."
A three-time series overall winner, Ewan had been aiming for title number four, but a crash on the final corner of stage one derailed is overall ambitions.
"It would have been nice to win the series, but at the end of the day, this is a small stepping stone going into bigger races in the new year, so I'm not all that disappointed," said Ewan. "Yesterday I had a bit of a dig and got away in the breakaway and felt really good. Today I won the sprint. I feel like I have all my bases covered going into Nationals."
The series overall went to Richie Boulevard winner Ian Bibby (JLT Condor). Bibby is the first British winner of the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, and only the second non-Australian to win the men's race. Switzerland's Peter Steiger won the first edition in 1989.
"It's fantastic," said Bibby. "To start the year off like this has been really, really good. I'm really happy. If you told me this would happen last week, I would have laughed."
Bibby assumed a surprise leadership role within his squad when Jones, his team leader, was involved in the crash that took out Ewan on day one. Second place in Portarlington solidified Bibby's lead on the yellow jersey.
"This course is the one I was worried about the most," Bibby admitted. "I was a bit nervous and trying not to over-think it too much. I had faith in the lads."
How it unfolded
The elite men's peloton lined up for the hour-long finale of the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic under sunny skies. A breeze coming off the sea translated into slight crosswinds on the finishing stretch.
Sam Spokes (Total Rush) and Nathan Haas (VTWO) escaped from the peloton 15 minutes into the race. The duo spent less than 10 minutes away in what would prove the longest breakaway attempt of the day.
With five laps left to race, ORICA-Scott moved en mass to the head of the peloton. Damien Howson took a two-lap long pull before swinging off to allow Mitch Docker to take up the charge. Ewan sat calmly on the back of the train, biding his time.
"Obviously coming into the last crit here, without a win yet, put a lot of pressure on this one, especially going into the national crit," said Ewan. "It always helps a sprinter to have that confidence going into a big race. I'm super happy with how the team rode today. They were perfect."
Ewan hit out two corners from the finish. Only Jones could match his turn of speed.
"I knew [Jones] was on my wheel coming into the second to last corner," said Ewan. "I knew I wanted to go pretty early. It's hard to come back from that corner if you get stuffed up a little bit. I backed myself to go early and it paid off."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica Scott||1:00:00|
|2||Brenton Jones (Aus) JLT Condor|
|3||Mathew Gibson (GBr) Condor|
|4||Ian Bibby (GBr) JLT Condor||0:00:04|
|5||Anthony Giacoppo (Aus) Isowhey Sports Swisswellness|
|6||Samuel Spokes (Aus) Total Rush|
|7||Ed Clancy (GBr) JLT Condor||0:00:06|
|8||Mitch Docker (Aus) Orica Scott|
|9||Alex Frame (NZl) JLT Condor||0:00:10|
|10||Ali Slater (GBr) JLT Condor||0:00:14|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Ian Bibby (GBr) JLT Condor||29||pts|
|2||Mathew Gibson (GBr) Condor||24|
|3||Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica Scott||18|
|4||Brenton Jones (Aus) JLT Condor||17|
|5||Anthony Giacoppo (Aus) Isowhey Sports Swisswellness||16|
|6||Samuel Spokes (Aus) Total Rush||14|
|7||Michael Hepburn (Aus) Orica Scott||12|
|8||Jesse Kerrison (Aus) Isowhey Sports Swisswellness||10|
|9||Cameron Bayly (Aus) Isowhey Sports Swisswellness||9|
|10||Patrick Lane (Aus) VTwo Team||5|