Ian Bibby (JLT Condor) is poised to become the first British winner of Australia's Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic on Tuesday in Williamstown. A surprise winner on the opening stage in Geelong, Bibby finished in second place on stage 2 in Williamstown to consolidate his overall lead. No international rider has won the men's series since the race began in 1992.
"You have your time off and go on holiday and then come back and you're out in the snow and rain in England," said Bibby. "It's hard to imagine that here. You never know how you're going to go – dropped on the first lap or there to contend at the end. It's nice to show that hard work in the rain and snow has paid off.
"We've been quite lucky," Bibby added. "It's not as hot as it's been in the past. If it were 30 degrees, we'd be struggling."
Bibby has benefited from the misfortunes of those around him. Pre-race favourite Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) crashed while leading the peloton into the final corner of stage 1. Jesse Kerrison (IsoWhey Sports SwissWellness), who finished second on Sunday, crashed on the penultimate lap of Monday's race.
"Everyone seems to fall off around me, and I somehow seem to avoid it," said Bibby. "I had a bit of luck yesterday and it was quite nice to back it up today."
With a win and a second-place, Bibby has bagged 22 points. That's six more than Matthew Gibson (Condor) in second overall, and 10 more than Williamstown winner Michael Hepburn (ORICA-Scott).
The Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic is shorter than ever in 2017, down to three stages. Numerically, only two riders could challenge Bibby for the yellow jersey with two races down, one race remaining. Gibson would need to finish better than fourth place with Bibby to finish less than ninth place while Hepburn would need to win with Bibby finishing outside the top 18 (and even then Bibby may still win on count-back).
Both scenarios seem unlikely but Bibby refuses to count his chicken just yet.
"I wouldn't say it's guaranteed," said Bibby. "There are a few people close and with the likes of Orica, anything can happen really. We've got a good team. We rode really well today. Hopefully they can help, and we can defend it."