Mitchelton-Scott's Nick Schultz was somewhat of a surprise winner of stage 4 of the Herald Sun Tour on Saturday, winning the stage at the top of the climb of Arthurs Seat ahead of Team Sky's Dylan van Baarle, who in turn took over the race lead from overnight leader Michael Woods (EF Education First).
Twenty-four-year-old Schultz, who moved into second place overall, only made the step up to the WorldTour this season, having joined Mitchelton-Scott from Spanish Pro Continental squad Caja Rural, but the Australian has quickly found his feet.
"The whole team was really strong, and we put the GC teams under the pump right from kilometre 0, and I was the lucky one to sneak into the right move that was sort of given enough leeway," Schultz said.
"It was a perfect scenario: Sky had numbers [in the front group], including Van Baarle, who was ahead of me on the GC, so they just drilled it until Dylan and I went with two laps to go. From there it was all out, and I just had to go as deep as I could to the line to get the stage win."
While Schultz made his first pro victory sound simple, even getting into the day's main eight-rider break in the first place had meant a huge effort.
"Initially I had to dig pretty deep to get across there, but Sky waited to let us across," he explained. "Basically, from Sky's point of view, it was so that we wouldn't chase from behind. So I worked a little bit at the start until it was clear that they were sacrificing two guys [Luke Rowe and Christian Knees], full gas, for Dylan.
"So then I just sat in the wheels, like he did, and it wasn't until we were left 'two-up' that I worked with him, but I still had to play a bit of cat and mouse to sort of show that I was more interested in the stage than the GC, and I think that aligned with his views as well."
Schultz had already spent time with Mitchelton-Scott as a stagiaire there in the second half of the 2016 season.
"That was the year before I went to Caja Rural," said Schultz. "When I went into the stagiaire role, [head sports director] Matt White was pretty clear that there wasn't going to be a spot on the team for me; it was more about experience and getting to know the environment.
"At the end of the year, he said not to discount anything in the future, and I thought, 'Oh, they say that to everyone who doesn't get a ride on the team after their stagiaire stint,' but, two years later, here I am, so it's all good."
Asked, jokingly, whether he could make up the 24-second gap between him and race leader Van Baarle on Sunday's final stage in Melbourne, which should finish as a bunch sprint, Schultz took it in good spirits.
"That's a big ask in a crit," he laughed. "But I'm pretty content for now, and we'll debrief tonight and see what the team plan is going into tomorrow."
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