Back-to-back for Kennedy at the Sun Tour

Thu 6 Feb 2020

Reigning champion Lucy Kennedy has successfully defended her Lexus of Blackburn Herald Sun Tour title with an aggressive climb up Falls Creek this afternoon.

Despite being the heavily marked rider on a shortened final stage, Kennedy persisted with back-to-back attacks to eventually drop the yellow jersey and finish third on the stage. 

The 31-year-old’s overall victory was guaranteed only because of the work of her Mitchelton-SCOTTteammates that caught many general classification riders, including today’s top-two finishers, off guard yesterday.

Change of plans:
Wet weather and the potential for storms saw the final stage of the Lexus of Blackburn Women’s Herald Sun Tour shortened, with the opening 30km descent removed for safety.

The new start began on the outskirts of Mount Beauty and saw the bunch complete a 20km loop before heading straight up the final 30km climb.

Making it hard:
Early attacks launched around the intermediate sprints on the opening loop, but Mitchelton-SCOTT forced the pace on the lower ramps to make the climb hard and suit leader Kennedy. 

Neo-pro Jess Roberts put in the last big effort until the halfway point of the climb, and left Kennedy on her own with a group of around 20 riders with 15km to go.

A target on the back:
With the number one bib on her back courtesy of last year’s victory, Kennedy was heavily marked up the climb.

Relentless attacks by Kennedy dwindled down the final group, but watching and waiting for her every move, any lapse in pressure saw the intensity ease and dropped riders returned again to the front.

The yellow jersey of Arlenis Sierra (Astana Women’s Team) was persistent, and with the 10-second bonus from yesterday’s stage win, Kennedy knew she had to find a way to drop the Cuban. 

Eventually, with one final effort in the last 500m, the elastic snapped and Kennedy got the gap she needed from the sprinter. 

Slightly ahead, Ella Harris (New Zealand) and Sarah Gigante (Team Tibco-SVB) finished top two on the stage but were out of contention for the overall title due to the work of Sarah Roy and Gracie Elvin to split the race in yesterday’s crosswinds.

Lucy Kennedy – 2020 and 2019 champion:
“Arlenis was so strong today, she was just following my early move and I just had my DS in my ear telling me to keep on going and that she will eventually crack. She did, eventually, and then when I saw the two in front of me were split off yesterday, I thought I had (the title) there with a few hundred metres to go. 

“There were about three or four in that final selection that didn’t lose any time yesterday and they were just watching me. I definitely felt like the marked rider today and I just had to trust in my strength and my climbing ability and know that I could hopefully crack them eventually.

“It’s really really satisfying (to go back-to-back). I wouldn’t say I was nervous, I was excited and really motivated and the team here were just amazing. Even though we didn’t have a full team, I really owe all of this to them.”

Alejandro Gonzalez-Tablas – Sport Director:
“The idea was to make it hard from the rolling part of the climb and to try to stretch the peloton and help put Lucy in position. We just missed a little and had Lucy isolated a bit too early, but in the end it worked out pretty well. 

“Lucy just had to keep going. Everybody was hurting and I was just encouraging her to keep on going and actually it was just on the very last one that she made it. It was amazing.

“Absolutely, we won the race yesterday. It was thanks to that time we got yesterday that today we won the race here. That’s amazing teamwork.”

Lexus of Blackburn Herald Sun Tour – Stage 2 Results:
1. Ella Harris (New Zealand) 1:36:43
2. Sarah Gigante (Team Tibco-SVB) ST
3. Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:03

Lexus of Blackburn Herald Sun Tour – FINAL General Classification:
1. Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 3:52:38
2. Jaime Gunning (Specialized Women’s Racing) +0:12
3. Arlenis Sierra (Astana Women’s Team) +0:22

Photo courtesy of Con Chronis.