Howson 2nd on stage 2 as plans change for Mitchelton-SCOTT at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour

Thu 6 Feb 2020

2017 champion Damien Howson took on a late responsibility shift to finish second on stage two of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.

Howson switched from domestique to team leader in the final 10km of the climb up to Falls Creek when Mitchelton-SCOTT teammate Simon Yates suffered from a bad day on the road. 

Grabbing the opportunity with both hands, Howson almost repeated his stage victory on the same finish in 2017, but was outsprinted in the final metres by Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) who took the victory.

All about the climb:
A breakaway of seven formed in the opening 30km of racing and they were kept within three minutes throughout the flat kilometres of racing. 

By the time they reached the bottom of the Falls Creek climb, they’d attacked each other and the lead rider had just one minute on the chasing bunch.

Mitchelton-SCOTT set the pace on the bottom slopes on the climb, caught the final breakaway survivors and quickly whittled down the bunch.

Change of Plans:
Kiwi Dion Smith put in a big effort on the middle slopes of the climb, before last year’s Jayco Herald Sun Tour stage winner Nick Schultz took over at the front. 

Yates revealed to the team via radio that he wasn’t on his best day within the final 10km and Howson was charged with the leadership duties for the stage. 

As Yates dropped off the pace, Team Sunweb turned up their efforts on the front.  Outnumbered, Howson played his cards smartly, feeding off both Sunweb and EF Pro Cycling.

The attacks began at the front but Howson showed himself as one of the strongest climbers on the day, sprinting to the line with Hindley and Sebastian Berwick (St George) for second place. The 27-year-old is now four seconds behins race leader Hindley in the general classification. 

Damien Howson – 2nd place:
“It was a pretty difficult stage, obviously out team took control from the bottom of the climb and it’ll be pretty interesting to see, even with the head wind, what time we did from bottom to top. It was raced very hard. 

“Unfortunately Simon didn’t have the best of days today so Matt Wilson, our director, gave me the responsibility to try to pull something off today. I knew I was feeling relatively good, and to be around the mark is nice and pleasing and we’re look forward to the rest of the Tour now.

“I just had to bide my time. The other teams had a fair few numbers still late into the race so I knew I could play off them a little bit. That last 300m was an endless effort and I could taste the victory but I knew at the same time it was going to take a big effort, so second is not too bad.

“Jai finished second to me a couple of years ago and now the roles are reversed, but this time it was a lot closer as well so it’s all to play for on the remaining three days of the Tour.”

Simon Yates:
“I wasn’t on a good day today so I made the call to the team with about 10km to go.

“Damien had great legs so was able to take the lead for the team in the final and almost rode himself to another stage win here.”

Matt Wilson – Sport Director:
“Obviously we were all in for Simon today and the guys did an amazing ride to set him up.  Unfortunately he was just having a bad day but we had a plan B with Damien and he was on a great day.

“Hats off to Team Sunweb, they’ve had a great Tour so far, but it’s still all to race for.  This race isn’t going to come down to small seconds so we will reassess tonight and get back to work tomorrow.”

Jayco Herald Sun Tour – Stage 2 Results:
1. Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) 3:06:39
2. Damien Howson (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST
3. Sebastian Berwick (St George) ST

Jayco Herald Sun Tour – General Classification after Stage 2:
1. Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) 5:43:01
2. Damien Howson (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:04
3. Sebastian Berwick (St George) +0:06

Photo courtesy of Con Chronis.