The final race of the Australian Summer finished up this week as the climbers got to stretch their legs again in the hills around Melbourne.
Danny van Poppel (Sky) showed his early form once again as he took the 2.1km prologue 7 seconds ahead of his team leader and two time olympic time trial bronze medalist Chris Froome (he also won three Tours de France). On the climb up to Falls Creek on Stage 1, Team Sky’s Kenny Elissonde and Orica Scott’s Damien Howson attacked the peloton near the bottom of the 29km climb, with Howson taking an impressive hill top win after dropping Elissonde and the remnants of the day’s breakaway.
On the 2nd stage, Team Sky’s Luke Rowe attacked the break away on the final day’s climb and powered his way to victory, leaving behind a messy GC battle after race leader Damien Howson punctured at the base of the last climb. With Chris Froome off the front of the peloton, and joined by teammate Kenny Elissonde and three Australia National team riders, Froome decided to slow down and wait for the yellow jersey Howson, as he did not want to be a part of a win that came at the cost of an unlucky puncture.
Stage 3 was a day for the sprinters, but with the stars in either the Dubai Tour or the Vuelta a la Comunitat Valencia, it was interesting to see who could pull off the win. United Healthcare’s star signing of the offseason, Travis McCabe, took the sprint finish ahead of Mitchell Docker (Orica Scott) and Leigh Hpward (Aqua Blue).
The final day’s stage was a four lap loop of 30km with a climb that could shake things up for race leader Damien Howson. A medium sized group went off the front early in the stage, with no rider a threat on GC. With no incentive to chase, Orica Scott allowed the break to stay away until late into the race. With less than 2km to go, Ian Standard (SKY) attacked the splintering breakaway and powered his way towards the finish line. But with sprinter Travis McCabe quickly closing the gap in the final meters, the celebrating Standard took a narrow victory on the closing stage of the race.
Ben Hill of the Australian continental squad Attaque Team Gusto won the Mountains classification while Jacob Kauffmann of the NSW Institute of Sport team took the points classification.
The peloton will head back to Europe after an exciting Australian summer to compete in the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal and the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta del Sol in Spain. Also, the Middle Eastern season will next race the Tour of Oman, featuring the challenging Green Mountain.