Double Herald Sun Tour champion Lucy Kennedy made the front split on the opening stage of the Santos Festival of Cycling before sprinting to eighth place in the dash for the line in Tanunda.
Team BikeExchange had controlled the peloton for much of the day and kept the breakaway in check ahead of the final and decisive ascent of Menglers Hill. The race burst into life on the climb with an acceleration Kennedy on the lower slopes, followed by a move from Tour Down Under stage winner Grace Brown.
The duo managed to reduce the numbers in the peloton, but Brown found herself unable to follow further attacks over the top, leaving Kennedy alone in a select leading group. The stage finale came down to a reduced bunch sprint with Peta Mullens (Roxsolt LIV Sram) taking the win, while Kennedy got up for eighth.
“We certainly didn’t want a break to win, this race won’t be decided by huge margins so we couldn’t afford to lose time from the first stage. The plan was to be aggressive on the second and third lap to try and force a break.
“We had hoped Grace and I would both make any selection, but the NRS teams are really strong at the moment and capitalised over that final climb to keep the front group away.
“Racing is a bit of a shock to the system at this time of year and I felt very sluggish early but built into it a bit. My form is maybe a little better than I was expecting so I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do up Willunga, which is likely to be decisive.“
“Not the day I was hoping for, today is a reminder that the local girls are in really good form. To be honest I haven’t done anything over threshold in training, so that was really brought to front of mind today.
“When we were attacking over the climb, I just couldn’t go up that extra level to stay with them. So, I finished in the second group, but thankfully Lucy was in the front.
“I think tomorrow is more likely to be a bigger bunch sprint and definitely teams with strong sprinters will want to keep it together. Hopefully it won’t be quite as attacking on the climbs.”
Dave Sanders (Sports Director):
“The girls did a great job to bring back the break and put Lucy at the front for the final climb. Then she did her job over the top and finished well in the front group as planned. We had hoped to have Grace there as well to give us more options for the rest of the race, but she’s still finding her legs in her first race of season 2021.”
Santos Festival of Cycling – Stage 1:
1. Peta Mullens (Roxsolt LIV Sram) 2:18:21
2. Ruby Roseman-Gannon (ARA Pro-Racing Sunshine Coast) +0:02
3. Nicole Frain (Sydney Uni Staminade) +0:06
8. Lucy Kennedy (Team BikeExchange) +0:10
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.