Leigh Howard (HTC-Highroad) took the final stage of the Ster ZLM Toer to complete a successful race for the team. The Australian however will be relieved to finally breakthrough after a number of setbacks in the last few months.
Crashes in April's Tour de Romandie as well as a what seemed a luckless Tour of California saw Howard miss out on wins that he himself had thought were realistic. In the TD Bank International in Philadelphia, a race HTC-Highroad had flagged as one the Australian would be the team's designated leader, a mechanical incident in the final 20 kilometre saw him miss out once again.
This win thus comes as a particulalry sweet one for Howard, as HTC-Highroad sports director, Jan Schaffrath explained after the stage.
"Our goal for today was to work for Leigh in the sprint, but it was a very difficult stage with a lot of rain, wind and storms," he said. "The run-in was not easy either, I counted five speed bumps in the last couple of kilometers and other 'road furniture' too, but Leigh came through well. He was protected from the wind when he needed to be then given the perfect lead out and the rest he could handle for himself."
Schaffrath also praised the team's performance on the day; and indeed the week, which has been an incredibly successful one for HTC-Highroad.
"It's a great way to complete the event for him, and for the team too. We've had victories at both ends of the race and we led overall for the first three days too. It's difficult to ask for more."
Howard will not be riding next month's Tour de France this year but will be preparing for his Grand Tour debut at this year's Vuelta a Espana in August.
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Alex Hinds, Production Editor
Alex Hinds is a graduate of Economics and Political Science from Sydney University. Growing up in the metropolitan area of the city he quickly became a bike junkie, dabbling in mountain and road riding. Alex raced on the road in his late teens, but with the time demands of work and university proving too much, decided not to further pursue full-time riding.
If he was going to be involved in cycling in another way the media seemed the next best bet and jumped at the opportunity to work in the Sydney office of Cyclingnews when an offer arose in early 2011.
Though the WorldTour is of course a huge point of focus throughout the year, Alex also takes a keen interest in the domestic racing scene with a view to helping foster the careers of the next generation of cycling.
When not writing for Cyclingnews Alex is a strong proponent of the awareness of cyclists on the road in Sydney having had a few close run-ins with city traffic in the past.