Simon Yates being dropped was the last possibility on anyone’s mind as the Jayco Herald Sun Tour took on the long climb of Falls Creek.
The former Vuelta winner was the unbackable favourite to take out the queen stage of the Herald Sun Tour, but was at the back of the lead group for most of the climb and then lost contact with five and half kilometres remaining in the race.
“I wasn’t on a good day today so I made the call to the team with about 10 kilometres to go,” said Yates after the race. “Damien had great legs so was able to take the lead for the team in the final and almost rode himself to another stage win here.”
Yates’ bad day was more than just being off the pace, conceding almost six minutes to the stage winner Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) by the time he crossed the line, quickly heading back down the hill to his team vehicle.
Damien Howson was happy with his performance after having leadership thrust upon him late in proceedings.
“Unfortunately Simon didn’t have the best of days today so our director Matt Wilson gave me the responsibility to try and pull something off today,” said Howson. “I knew I was feeling relatively good and to be around the mark today is pleasing and I’m looking forward to the rest of the Tour.”
Howson dropped to the back of the group and looked to be checking on Yates just before the British rider was dropped, with Howson revealing that he had known that Yates wasn’t going great a few minutes before he was dropped from the front group.
“I’d been told about my changing roles and to be stuck in second wheel probably wasn’t the position I wanted to be in,” said Howson. “I also didn’t want to give anything away. I was comfortable there, biding my time.”
Howson was the victor the last time the Herald Sun Tour came to Falls Creek, using the result as a springboard to his general classification victory.
“I guess we came from Tour Down Under where Richie’s the King of Willunga and it would have been nice to call myself the King of Falls Creek but not to be.”
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Written by Jamie Finch-Penninger