After explaining to Cyclingnews on at sign on for stage 2 of the Herald Sun Tour that he and Sky would need to race aggressively to take it up to Orica-Scott, Luke Rowe duly delivered. The Team Sky classics man initiated the 10-man breakaway of the day, and then sent the stragglers packing late on to solo to his first win since the 2012 Tour of Britain.
"It has been a long time coming," said Rowe, who was also awarded the combativity prize. "We sat down at the end of last year and said it was about time I won something. There are bigger bike races out there to win, but a win's a win and I'll take any win I can get.
"It is kind of surreal putting your hands in the air and going through the winning motions. Most of the time it's spent working for others so when you get half an opportunity you have to take it, and that is what I did today."
While the stage was seen as a possible day for the breakaway, the category two five-kilometre Stanley climb put the stage win in favour of the climbers and punchuers. As a man for the cobbles, Rowe wasn't tipped as someone to make his mark on the stage. However, fifth place at Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road last weekend suggested the 26-year-old was in form and capable of getting up the hills under the hot Australian sun.
"It's certainly good for the confidence. You look at an eight, nine-kilometre climb like that and there were a few guys in the group I was concerned about," he said of the climb, which was longer than its catergorised length. "It's no secret that I am not an out and out climber but I can grovel over stuff like that. It is quite nice to come out on top and tuck away a few decent climbers so it is good for morale going into the next part of the season which is, of course, the cobbles."
As Rowe was enjoying his bid for glory, teammate Chris Froome was attacking on the climb in his bid to claw back time on Howson. While the specifics of the timing regarding Froome's attack and a front wheel tyre flat for Howson remain somewhat unclear, the duo was part of a big front group that arrived at the finish line 1:17 down on Rowe.
"It sounded quite chaotic. I am not exactly sure what happened but I know Damien was behind at one point and I heard over the radio at one point, 'stop riding' because it is not really a classy way to take the win and rather try and do it on another stage on a climb," said Rowe in reference to the action taking place behind him on the road. "Not everyone would have waited but it is the right thing to do. It is one of those grey rules in cycling and the kind of the correct thing to do and good decision."
As the top three on GC remained unchanged, Froome and Team Sky's bid for another title will come down to the final day stage of four circuits around Kinglake. Having enjoyed his moment in the limelight, Rowe will return to the day job as he and the team are plotting to deliver Danny van Poppel to stage 3 success following his win in the prologue on Wednesday night.
"Tomorrow is a guaranteed sprint and in my eyes, we have the fastest guy in the race so if we have to take responsibility, we will do it and do everything we can to get Danny in the best position to try and win the race," he said of the Dutchman. "I'll be the last man for Danny tomorrow, back to duties. Doesn't last for long this fame and glamour shit, so back to the grind tomorrow and I'll try box on with Danny and drop him off at the perfect place."
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