Howson joins honour roll at Jayco Herald Sun Tour

Sun 5 Feb 2017

Queen stage winner Damien Howson has taken out the 2017 Jayco Herald Sun Tour,  successfully defending his lead on the crucial final stage in Kinglake for his first ever stage-race win.

Howson rode himself into the yellow jersey on the decisive opening road stage, attacking on the final 30km climb up Falls Creek to take his first professional victory.

The 24-year-old started today with a 38second buffer from his nearest rival Jai Hindley (Korda Mentha Australia), and despite a dangerous attack from Chris Froome (Team Sky) on the final climb, Howson finished comfortably in the group of main contenders to celebrate over the line.

“It’s a big sigh of relief now,” Howson said. “It’s been an amazing week and to finish it off the way we did, capitalise on our position, I couldn’t be happier.”

“It comes with a lot of honour (to win the Tour). There are a lot of prestigious names on that list… and I am really happy to join that list of guys.

“To get my first win only a couple of days ago and to continue all the way through and keep the yellow jersey on the final day, it’s my first overall win ever, so it’s nice to break into new territory.”

For the past three days, Howson’s ORICA-SCOTT teammates have dedicated all of their efforts to defending his lead, but it wasn’t without drama.

A stage two puncture at the bottom of a climb with 20km to the finish made for an intense chase to an active group of general classification rivals.

The following day, on the penultimate day of racing, Howson dodged a number of crashes in the final kilometres to survive another day of drama.

Enjoying his role as a leader, rather than his usual domestique duties, Howson was full of praise for his ORICA-SCOTT teammates.

“I definitely was nervous,” Howson said. “But I think every lap that went by I became more calm. I was probably expecting (other teams) to light it up a bit earlier to really make or break the race.”

“We had the full team coming through the finish line (together) and we still had plenty of numbers to go coming through for the final lap. I knew as long as I had Esteban (Chaves) with me on the final climb that it was going to be pretty simple to control and maintain the overall lead and that’s exactly what happened.

“Everyone went further than they needed to and that made my day as easy as possible, which was fantastic.”

How it happened:

Contrary to the conditions of the previous days of racing, the peloton set off for four laps of a tough 31.2km in rainy and windy conditions.

After an extended neutral zone, the race began and a breakaway of 12 moved off the front. Shortly after a chase group of six set off in pursuit.

The two groups joined and rode out to a four-minute advantage with ORICA-SCOTT patrolling on the front of the peloton.

The breakaway started the final lap with a two-minute advantage and shortly after began to attack each other. Behind, the pace also picked up in the peloton as Froome launched an attack attempt.

The breakaway survived to take the stage victory, with Ian Stannard (Team Sky) attacking in the final kilometre for the honours. Behind, Howson comfortably stayed with his overall threats to take out his first ever Tour.

Jayco Herald Sun Tour - Stage 4 Results

1. Ian Stannard (Team Sky) 2:52:44
2. Aaron Gate (Aqua Blue Sport) ST
3. Taco Van der Hoorn (RNL) ST

Jayco Herald Sun Tour - General Classification 

1. Damien Howson (ORICA-SCOTT) 15:25:13
2. Jai Hindley (Korda Mentha Australia) +0:38
3. Kenny Elissonde (Team Sky) +0:53