Howson holds on to the podium as Hindley consolidates on Mt BullerSat 8 Feb 2020
2017 champion Damien Howson has limited his losses and looks set to hold onto another podium finish after the Queen stage of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour today.
Howson finished seventh on the stage, 22seconds behind race leader Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb), who took his second stage victory of the Tour and consolidated his yellow jersey. Sebastian Berwick (St George) finished second on the stage to move into second overall.
With just tomorrow’s Melbourne-circuit stage remaining, Howson sits 36-seconds behind Hindley and 26seconds off Berwick.
Racing was on from the gun with a flurry of attacks and a large group of over 20 riders escaping off the front of the peloton.
With threats to the GC battle amongst the group, Team Sunweb committed to shutting the move down before the day’s eventual breakaway of eight formed.
Trying on the climb:
Identifying early on the climb that he wasn’t on the best of days, Howson sheltered himself in the group behind teammates Cameron Meyer and Nick Schultz as Team Sunweb set the pace and began to close in on the remaining breakaway riders.
Kiwi Dion Smith attacked for Mitchelton-SCOTT before 2018 Vuelta a Espana champion Simon Yates bridged across to him looking for a stage result.
The pairs efforts weren’t enough to stop Hindley and Berwick, who powered past them to contest the stage.
Schultz and Meyer continued to guide Howson, who lost touch in the accelerations, up the final tough section of the climb to eventually finish 22seconds off the mark. It wasn’t enough to hold second overall, but saved the 27-year-old’s podium position.
“People were hoping that the right break could make it to the line today so a lot of teams were being really aggressive.
“At one stage there was a large group away with a few threats on GC, not immediate threats but guys within two minutes were within the group of 20-25 riders, and that put Sunweb under a bit of pressure to close that one down pretty quick.
“Eventually the right breakaway got clear, but with them only getting out to a maximum of four minutes it was always going to come back to a GC group for the stage win.
“Sunweb rode a really good race today, they set a really good tempo from the bottom to the top essentially and it was hard enough that really no one could go over the top of them.
“Dion tried with just under five kay to go and Yatesy rode across to him to hopefully go for the stage win but it was the two guys on the overall that were by far the strongest in the last kilometre when the road really went uphill.
“I felt OK, I knew I didn’t have the best of legs, so for the first six kay I was trying to just stay calm. I had the boys around me which kept me motivated and I did the best ride I could.
“The legs weren’t feeling fantastic and I knew I couldn’t match the acceleration once it came. For me, it was solid enough with the head wind that I could hold the wheels and luckily I had Cam and Shultzy around me, essentially to the line, to limit my losses.
“I think it’ll be enough to get me another podium here. Three times third, but coming here at the start of the week I wasn’t expecting that, so it was nice I could finish off a decent week and give myself an opportunity.”
2020 Jayco Herald Sun Tour – Stage 4 Results:
1. Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) 3:01:25
2. Sebastian Berwick (St George) ST
3. Jay Vine (Nero Continental) +0:09
6. Nick Schultz (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:22
2020 Jayco Herald Sun Tour – General Classification after Stage 4:
1. Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) 12:51:45
2. Sebastian Berwick (St George) +0:10
3. Damien Howson (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:36
Photo courtesy of Con Chronis.