Having safely navigated the bunch sprint finish on stage 3 of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, Peter Kennaugh and Chris Froome will start tomorrow's final and queen stage of the race sitting first and second on the general classification with just 13 seconds between them. Their nearest rival, Jack Bobridge (Trek-Segafredo), is currently at 31 seconds to Kennaugh while Jack Haig (Orica-GreenEdge) is at 48 seconds.
While there are 10 bonus seconds on the line for the stage winner, it is unlikely Kennaugh and Froome would concede the necessary time for the likes of Bobridge and Haig to jump frog them into one and two on GC up the three-kilometre Arthurs Seat climb. Despite Froome confessing that "I haven’t seen it myself", Sky are on the verge of winning their first race overall in season 2016 with only the triple ascent of the Mornington Peninsula climb to come.
Following a relaxed day in the saddle from Traralgon to Inverloch, Kennaugh is just 121.8km from becoming the first British rider since Bradley Wiggins in 2008 to claim overall honours.
“It would mean absolutely everything. Obviously, winning the Cadel race and then coming here and winning the first stage was just a massive bonus in itself. If I can hold on to GC, I’ll go home a happy boy that’s for sure" Kennaugh said. "It’s nice, it means you can relax a bit and start the preparation for the next couple of races with confidence and good morale, so fingers crossed."
On stage 1, the Team Sky duo proved themselves as the strongest climbers in the race, skipping away from the peloton on the 8.3km Mt St Leonard category one climb, but Kennaugh wouldn't be drawn into making predictions on the outcome of tomorrow's stage.
"I can’t read the future but it’s a different climb to the first day," he said. "Obviously, it’s a lot shorter and you saw yesterday on the shorter climbs that Jack Bobridge and other guys can hold their own so I think it will be a different kind of race and a different style of racing. We're just going to take things one-step at a time in the stage, see how the legs are," Kennaugh added. "If Froomey is feeling super good, obviously it will be up to him to have an attack. He can do what he wants but I am sure we’ll have a strategy sorted by tomorrow and take it from there.
“I don’t really know a lot of the riders," Kennaugh added of who he sees as Sky's main rivals for the overall. "Obviously, a lot of the domestic teams have strong guys and it’s their summer and they’re all going well but I don’t know the names. I am sure there are guys who are mega up for it. The Avanti team seems quite strong on the climbs so we’ll just have to watch out for guys like that I guess. We have a bit of a cushion on GC over a few people but still, it would be nice to be able to finish off with a stage win."
Helping Kennaugh claim overall honours in February would be an early-season thank you from Froome with the favour sure to be repaid later in the season. The two-time Tour de France champion explained that a win for British national champion is the ideal outcome.
"On paper it’s been marked as the decisive stage tomorrow. I think we are in a great position going into the stage with Pete in first and myself in second and hopefully a strong team around us to get the job done," said Froome who was fourth on his debut at the race in 2008 with Barloworld.
"That would be massive, it would be a great win for him, it would be a great win for the team. That’s that plan."
Froome has won his first race of the season for the last three years while Kennaugh's two previous GC wins, Coppi e Bartali and Tour of Austria in 2014, were also on his first attempt. Only can keep their streak going at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour with Team Sky's debut at the race looking to end in the best manner possible.