Chloe Hosking (Rally) was the winner of the opening stage of the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under, after a late attack by Brodie Chapman (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitane Futuroscope) lit up the 116.3 kilometre stage from Hahndorf to Macclesfield.
“We knew it was a really technical finish,” said Hosking, “so I was really clear to the girls, ‘don’t worry about being my last leadout, just get me into this technical bit at the front. That’s exactly what they did. At 2km to go I was perfectly positioned and then I was confident I could just surf wheels.”
“I jumped on Lotta Lepisto’s (Hentalla) wheel round the bottom corner and I knew it was a long way to the finish so I sat, then went again. I’m really happy with the girls, they’ve come from America, from Europe out of winter and they’ve executed perfectly. It’s really promising for the rest of the year and for the tour.”
Marieke de Groot van Witzenberg (Dolctini-Van Eyck) was the only aggressor early in proceedings, attacking after the first intermediate sprint at the 8 kilometre mark. The Dutch rider survived until the only Queen of the Mountain point of the stage, Knotts Hill Road, securing the QOM jersey for the stage.
She was swept up by the peloton who hadn’t showed too much energy in chasing the solo rider until the middle stages, catching her with 64 kilometres to go.
The next serious attack was made with 51 kilometres to go, with Silvia Valsecchi (BePink), Jenelle Crooks (TIBCO-SVB), Anastasia Chursina (Ale BTC Ljubljana) slipping clear of the peloton. The trio’s lead was short-lived, as they were swallowed up by a peloton hungry to contest the intermediate sprint, with Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb) taking first place.
Nicole Hanselmann (Dolctini-Van Eyck) attacked with 40 km left to race, joined quickly by Chapman to form a dangerous pair that needed to be chased.
The pair quickly pushed out a decent advantage, with the teams behind not committing fully to the front of the peloton to chase immediately. They came past Macclesfield for the final loop before the flat finish with a lead of one minute and 25 seconds with 30 kilometres remaining.
Hanselmann was dropped by Chapman with 27 kilometres left to ride, leaving Chapman to continue her assault on the course solo. The Australian was able to keep holding off the peloton and was still solo by two minutes at the final intermediate sprint with just under 15 kilometres to go. Trek, Sunweb and Rally had been the teams at the front of the peloton, and were gradually dragging Chapman’s advantage back coming into the finish.
“All of a sudden her (Chapman) gap was over two minutes with 20kms to go. A good rule of thumb is a minute every ten km, so that was a worry. There was a crosswind section, along with Trek and Rally we pushed the pace there. I was proud to have three of our riders there pushing the pace, when you see that as a sprinter it gives you that extra motivation. You have to repay your team.”
Chapman’s gap evaporated as the sprint trains began to rapidly close in on the finish with the catch coming inside the final kilometre. Trek rider Lotta Hentalla jumped first and got a gap on the whole field except Hosking, with the Australian criterium champion locked onto her wheel.
Hosking exploded off Hentalla’s wheel to take a convincing win, beating the Finnish sprinter home by a few bike lengths, with Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb) in third.
With the race stepping up to the new women’s racing category, the ProSeries the support services around the event have vastly improved, with better facilities for spectators, media and those watching from afar. The live stream coverage was superb, with helicopter coverage providing the images for the broadcast, rather than relying on mobile networks like normal streams. The time gaps reported during the race were poor, but that should be easily fixable for the next stages.
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Written by Jamie Finch-Penninger