Arlenis Sierra (Astana) made it look easy as she posted up to take her first win of 2020, winning a reduced bunch sprint in Stage 1 of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
The Cuban champion was clearly the fastest in the finish, coming past Roseman-Gannon with a verbally disappointed Anna Trevisi (Ale BTC Ljubljana) finishing fast to take second.
“I’m feeling good, I’m very happy with the victory,” said Sierra. “I’m happy with the team, I knew the strongest team was Mitchelton-Scott, four strong girls but with a united team we can do good things.”
Sierra has made a habit of good results in Australia, winning the Deakin University Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in 2019 and coming close to a successful defense of the title with a second-placed finish this year.
“Maybe Australia gives me luck,” said Sierra. “Australia is one of my preferred countries to race in and I’m very happy to be here. Tomorrow will be a very hard stage, but we will try to defend the jersey. It’s a very long climb and we’ll see how the legs respond tomorrow.”
A relatively sedate start to the 95 kilometre stage saw little action until the first intermediate sprint with Alexandra Martin-Wallace (ARA- Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) jumping out of the pack to take the maximum points with Lauren Stephens (TIBCO-SVB) second and Matilda Raynolds (Specialized Women’s Racing) third.
Attacks started in great volume from that point, though the high pace of the peloton discouraged moves off the front.
With 40 kilometres remaining, splits were forced by the pace-making of Mitchelton-Scott, Roxsolt and TIBCO-SVB, stretching the peloton to breaking point before it eventually snapped with a group of approximately 25 riders going clear of the rest of the peloton with a significant group including potential race winners in Sarah Gigante (TIBCO-SVB) and Justine Barrow (Roxsolt-Attaquer) missing out in the split.
The gap pushed out to 40 seconds rapidly, but was gradually brought back to just a 13 second advantage with 22 kilometres left as the second group worked hard to get back in contention. Just as it looked as if the dropped riders would make it back, Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-Scott) set a strong pace at the front of the peloton and blew the gap back out to over 30 seconds again.
Peta Mullens (Roxsolt-Attaquer) jumped over the top over the hot pace-setting by Mitchelton-Scott to take out the second intermediate sprint with Lauren Stephens (TIBCO-SVB) collecting second and Anastasiia Chursina (Ale BTC Ljubljana) in third.
The front split raised the tempo as they prepared for the sprint finish, with Sierra launching off the wheel of Roseman-Gannon to take a comfortable sprint victory.
The second group limped home 47 seconds behind the front of the race, devastating the chances for overall victory for the likes of Barrow and Gigante.
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Written by Jamie Finch-Penninger