The 114.9 kilometre stage from Murray Bridge to Birdwood saw a combination of crosswinds, climbs and a flat finish add up to an Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) sprint victory.
Mitchelton-Scott put the pressure on with 28 kilometres left to race, as the roads hit some uncategorised climbs. That split the race to pieces, with an elite selection of five including Spratt, Lucy Kennedy, Grace Brown (all Mitchelton-Scott) joined by Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) and Liane Lippert (Team Sunweb).
Kennedy was dropped after a huge effort to forge the gap and Brown was dropped in the attacking surges enroute to the finish line. Lippert hit out early in the sprint, but was passed with Spratt taking the win. The victory propelled an ecstatic Spratt into the Tour Down Under lead.
“The team were on the front for the whole day,” said Spratt, “there were some crosswinds early, we tried to be one of the teams to break it up, but we knew we could make the final 30 kilometres really hard if we needed to.
“I’m pretty excited to finish it off there, Liane and Ruth are very strong sprinters. With three of us there, you have to weigh that up and decide that three is in fact pretty good, given how hard tomorrow is going to be.”
Mitchelton-Scott made the most of what wasn’t thought to be the hardest of course, hitting hard on the uncategorized ascents as well as the marked Queen of the Mountains climb to break up the race.
“My coach (Gene Bates) is a local from around here,” said Spratt, “so I spoke to him extensively about what he thought. He said that you can make it hard if you want to.”
“We had it lined out in the bottom of the climb and then Lucy Kennedy let rip up to the top of that, then she did a really good job to keep us away. It was up to Grace and I to one-two the other riders into the finish.”
Spratt goes into Stage 3, the hardest of this year’s race, with a four second lead over Winder. The Australian said during the presentation that the team would go ‘all out’ to attack on the harder parcours, thoughts which see echoed in her interview.
“This year we have an extra lap and a dirt section before we even get to Stirling,” said Spratt. “We saw it was splitting every time through the finish last year and there are plenty of opportunities to attack where you’re out of sight quickly. The race is definitely not over.”
Stage 2 started relatively sedately as the peloton traversed the scenic bridge for which the start town of Murray Bridge is named. After passing through the town, accelerations by Mitchelton-Scott and Team Sunweb saw a major split in the peloton after 20 kilometres of racing. While it looked briefly that there would be potential for the wind to significantly impact the race, the second group rejoined the front split after the 30 kilometre-mark and the pace dropped back down.
A shortlived attack by Emily Herfoss (Roxsolt-Attaquer) was the only move of any significance during the period, shut down slightly before the first intermediate sprint point.
A significant Mitchelton-Scott acceleration with 28 kilometres remaining in the race saw several riders spat out the back, before an attack of five made its way clear of the peloton.
Three Mitchelton-Scott riders made the elite selection with Amanda Spratt, Lucy Kennedy, Grace Brown (all Mitchelton-Scott) joined by Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) and Liane Lippert (Team Sunweb). The Australians worked well together to push out the lead, with Lippert and Winder sitting on.
An attack by Spratt with 14 kilometres remaining dropped her teammates, though Brown fought back and kept the gap close all the way into the finish, yo-yo-ing just behind the leading trio. Surges continued over the final QOM point of the day, but once it became clear that none of the riders were able to create a gap, they settled in for the sprint finish.
Spratt emerged the victor, with Winder consigned to second place, with third-placed Lippert given the jersey as the best young rider.
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Written by Jamie Finch-Penninger