Annette Edmondson (Wiggle High5) says she is in the best form that she has been for some time at the Santos Women's Tour after she stormed to victory in its first stage. Edmondson won a stage of the 2016 edition from a sprint ahead of then teammate Chloe Hosking.
Edmondson thought that she might have to wait until the final day to raise her hands in victory but her first competitive ride in 2018 turned out to be a winning one. Added to that, the finishing town of Gumeracha is less than an hour's drive from her own hometown on the other side of Adelaide.
"It means a lot to take this win with a home crowd on home soil," Edmondson said. “I knew that my form was good the last couple of weeks, so I wanted to have a crack. I haven't been in this form for a while at the Tour Down Under so I thought that this was the year I was going to do well if I was ever going to.
"We talked about going for the sprint, but there was always a bit of a question mark with the first race of the year because you’re not really sure how you’re going to go against the rest with all the international riders coming. You don't know who's targeted the race and who hasn't."
A sprint finish was not a foregone conclusion for the peloton with a number of strong moves going up the road during the 115.7-kilometre stage. One in particular from Rachel Neylan, who is riding for UniSA-Australia at the race, held out until just three kilometres to go, forcing the sprinters' teams to work together to haul her back. Backing up her teammate’s effort made the win all the sweeter for the 26-year-old.
"She got straight out to a minute 20 and all of a sudden we thought that could be the end of the race. [Mitchelton-Scott] went to the front, because they're going for the overall, so we chucked in a couple of girls," Edmondson said.
"Audrey and Amy Cure did a great job, working really hard, and then Eri [Yonamine] popped in when Amy was tired, so the three of them went really well and helped [Mitchelton-Scott] bring Neylan back. I’m really proud of them for doing that and it makes the victory so much sweeter because we deserved it.”
With the victory, Edmondson earned herself the ochre jersey, which she will wear on stage 2. She holds a six-second advantage over former teammate Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance) but she will struggle to hold onto the leader's jersey with the second stage finishing on Mengler’s Hill, which is a short but steep climb that averages 14.4 per cent.
Edmondson will be down one teammate as Macey Stewart, who made her debut with Wiggle-High5, had to withdraw from the event due to a concussion sustained in a crash during stage 1.
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