Gold Coast girl Lauren Rowney recorded the biggest victory of her young career by winning the Honda Hybrid Women's Tour by the narrowest of margins, placing third behind stage winner Kendelle Hodges and Russian Venera Absaliyamova. Third was good enough for the 23-year-old in the 18-lap criterium, staged on Lygon Street this morning to secure not only the tour win but also the green sprint jersey and under 23 classification.
Rowney went into today's stage needing to bridge a four-econd deficit to Lisa Jacobs to secure the tour win, but a break away with five laps to go by Hodges, Absaliyamova and Emma Lawson nearly spoilt the dream finish.
"I got a little bit nervous when I went for the sprints, then Kendelle Hodges and the Russian girl attacked and I just couldn't go with it.
"The goal was for the girls to chase down anything. I worked so hard going into the sprint that I just sort of missed the move.
"No other team was helping out so my teammates got on the front and worked hard to try and pull it back," said Rowney
The opening laps of the criterium were tentative as the bunch felt out the course. I didn't remain that way for long as the pace up the front increased and the lead group reduced to 32, but contained all the contenders.
Rowney's team set her up perfectly for the first sprint lap, easily taking the full points on offer and reducing the gap to Jacobs to just two seconds.
At the half way mark the move came as Hodges and Absaliyamova worked well together to establish a good break before being joined by Lawson, the trio then extended the lead to 21 seconds.
"I did have a little moment of doubt, but knew that if I got third in the sprint I could win, so when we caught Emma Lawson, I knew that we could take it," said Rowney.
The bunch then regained control and closed the gap to 15 seconds, not enough to catch the leaders, Hodges getting over the top of Absaliyamova in the end for an easy victory and her first stage win.
"We knew we had four seconds and Bundaberg were out to get the time bonuses, so we had to be aggressive and we just tried to pick whoever was in the right spot at the right time to get a break up the road," said Hodges.
"Loren got the first sprint but we stopped the second. We only had two in the break, it would have been good to keep the three.
"The Russian worked really well today and it was just a shame Emma didn't have it today to hang on.
We nearly did it but not quite, it's still great to grab a stage win," said Hodges.
The bunch sprint came from a long way out, Rebecca Wiasak the first to attack but with tired legs on a slight uphill finish Rowney accelerated and her powerhouse sprint too good crossing the line with raised arms for the victory.
Rowney was the dominant sprinter all tour so little surprise she collected the green jersey and under 23 classification.
"This win is the biggest of my career, I can't believe it," said Rowney.
Jacobs gave herself every chance today of holding off Rowney but just didn't have the sprint legs, the 30 year old did take out the Queen of the Mountain jersey.
The Russian National Team's solid performance all tour saw them award the teams' category.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
|1||Kendelle Hodges (VIS Womens Road Team)|
|2||Venera Absaliyamova (Russian National Team)|
|3||Loren Rowney (Bundaberg Sugar)|
|4||Evgenya Romanyuta (Russian National Team)|
|5||Rebecca Werner (Team SASI)|
|6||Gracie Elvin (Team Blue)|
|7||Svetlana Boubnenkova (Russian National Team)|
|8||Rebecca Wiasak (Suzuki/Trek)|
|9||Sue Forsyth (Team SiS – NSW)|
|10||Trudy Van Der Straaten (Team SiS – NSW)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
|1||Loren Rowney (Bundaberg Sugar)|
|2||Lisa Jacobs (VIS Womens Road Team)|
|3||Allison Rice (Suzuki/Trek)|
|4||Venera Absaliyamova (Russian National Team)|
|5||Svetlana Boubnenkova (Russian National Team)|
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