Day of drama but Damo still in lead at Jayco Herald Sun Tour

Fri 3 Feb 2017

Yesterday’s Queen stage winner Damien Howson has successfully retained his lead of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, despite a dramatic end to stage two into Beechworth today.

After a day of patrolling attacks and controlling the breakaway, Howson’s ORICA-SCOTT teammates were again called upon in the final 20km when the race leader punctured at the bottom of the final climb.

After receiving a replacement front wheel from Mitch Docker, Howson was in for an all-mighty chase with Chris Froome and other general classification threats pushing hard ahead on the climb.

Thanks to unwavering assistance from Sam Bewley, followed by Robert PowerSimon GerransMichael Hepburn and finally Esteban Chaves to get over the climb, Howson and the Colombian re-joined the group of threats inside the final 500metres.

“I was nervous going into that climb, I knew it could have been a difficult ride to the finish,” Howson said. “But to be on the back foot from a cause I couldn’t control, it definitely added an element of stress.

“To reach the main group of GC contenders and capitalise on a really good two days and remain in the lead of this race, it’s all I could ask for.”

A relieved Howson was full of praise from his teammates in the eventful finale.

“It’s usually me helping (Esteban) out, I get great pleasure out of doing that, and for him to turn the screws today and give it everything he had today to retain the yellow jersey at the Herald Sun Tour, I can’t thank him enough,” Howson responded when journalists asked for his thoughts on Chaves.

“But on top of that, it was the full team. Every one of them. You cannot fault their efforts today.

“(They were) on the front foot covering all the moves, riding to contain the breakaway and then when things went a bit pear shaped with the front puncture with 20km to go, trying to remain calm was pretty difficult but I had them all around me.”

In the end, despite the close call, Howson retained his 38second lead to Jai Hindley (KordaMentha Australia) and 53seconds to Kenny Elissonde (Team Sky) going into the final weekend of racing.

How it happened:

After Howson’s victory yesterday, ORICA-SCOTT set off from Mount Beauty knowing they would be in for a fight to defend the yellow jersey.

Despite the Queen stage out of the way, the stages remaining each present their own challenges, which means there is no time to switch off or become complacent.

A breakaway of ten riders made the move of the day with ORICA-SCOTT taking full responsibility at the head of the peloton.

With the closest threat to the overall at seven-minutes, they kept the break in check at just under five minutes.

The pace picked up as the race headed towards the final climb, but in a dramatic turn of events, a puncture to Howson at the bottom put ORICA-SCOTT on the back foot.

As Howson was aided by teammates, the race ahead had broken up with Chris Froome in a group of three off the front of the peloton.

Froome was later joined by a chase group of five as ORICA-SCOTT had their work cut out for them in the chase.

Ahead, Luke Rowe (Team Sky) won the stage from the day’s breakaway. Behind, Howson and Chaves regrouped with their general classification contenders within the final 500metres.

Jayco Herald Sun Tour - Stage 2 Results:

1. Luke Rowe (Team Sky) 4:08:23
2. Conor Dunne (Aqua Blue) +0:33
3. Tanner Putt (United Healthcare) +0:56
23. Damien Howson (ORICA-SCOTT) +1:17

Jayco Herald Sun Tour - General Classification after stage 2:

1. Damien Howson (ORICA-SCOTT) 8:46:12
2. Jai Hindley (KordaMentha Australia) +0:38
3. Kenny Elissonde (Team Sky) +0:53