Herald Sun Tour stage winner Kaden Groves sprinted to second place on the final stage of the Santos Festival of Cycling as Luke Durbridge wrapped up the overall to hand Team BikeExchange their first general classification title of 2021.
The team controlled most of the final stage around Victoria Park as they kept a strong seven-rider breakaway in check, with Damien Howson and Lucas Hamilton each taking turns on the front to control the gap.
The remains of the break were eventually swept up with five laps to go as the bunch began to battle for position. Race leader Durbridge then moved to the head of the field and set a rapid pace before swinging off with one lap to go.
Australian road race champion Cameron Meyer then took over, before handing the final lead-out duties to Alex Edmondson. Groves was well positioned heading into the penultimate corner, but as the sprint opened up the 22-year-old couldn’t match the pace of Sam Welsford (Garmin Australia) who sprinted away to the stage four victory.
Kaden Groves (2nd, Stage 4):
“I had an armchair ride pretty much all day from the boys, so I was disappointed to come in second, but it must also have been pretty easy in the wheels, we had a lot of teams challenging us going into that final corner from probably about five laps to go.
“It was a really good job by the boys, keeping me fresh all day, I’m just disappointed I couldn’t finish it off. Sam [Welsford] is pretty local here and he’s done that corner a few more times than me. We came out side-by-side, it ended in a drag race and I just couldn’t match his track power.”
Luke Durbridge (Overall Winner):
“It’s really, really special. I’m really, really happy, it’s been a fantastic week for us. We had a few chances with Kaden where he was just there, he just got beaten again by world-class Sam Welsford on a circuit that he knows.
“I think the boys did a really good job today, everyone dug-in, gave Kaden the best option and he came away with second, so we can be happy with that and we can be happy with the week. This has really set us up for the summer, for the nationals.
“I’m really happy with where I’m at, I prepared well in the off-season, I’m glad I came home to Australia to have some normality. I’m looking forward to the season and hopefully I can carry this form onto Europe and I can have some big results there.”
Matt Wilson (Sports Director):
“It was a fantastic way to finish the tour, obviously the stage win would have been ever better, but you just can’t fault the way the guys rode on that stage, they controlled everything and gave Kaden the best chance, he was just beaten by a better man on the day.
“All week it’s been just a super effort by the guys, they followed the plan to perfection and got the win and we couldn’t be happier.”
Santos Festival of Cycling – Stage 4:
1. Sam Welsford (Garmin Australia) 59:41
2. Kaden Groves (Team BikeExchange) ST
3. Jensen Plowright (Team BridgeLane) ST
Santos Festival of Cycling – General Classification:
1. Luke Durbridge (Team BikeExchange) 8:10:59
2. Luke Plapp (Garmin Australia) +02:00
3. Chris Harper (Cervelo-Tonsley Village) +02:31
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.