Howson turns from helper to hero atop Falls Creek at Jayco Herald Sun Tour

Thu 2 Feb 2017

Dynamite domestique Damien Howson has claimed his first ever win for ORICA-SCOTT atop Falls Creek on stage one of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour today. 

Howson was one of four cards the team had to play on the Queen stage that featured a 30km climb to the finish.

Whilst all of the focus was on Colombian climber Esteban Chaves, Howson, who is regularly Chaves’ final support man in the mountains in Europe, made the most of his opportunity for a solo victory, his first in three and a half years.

“This is my first win in these colours and it’s been a long spell without a win,” Howson said. “I have been living my successes through others which I am always happy to do, but it’s nice to get a little bit of glory today.”

“We always knew we had a lot of cards to play. We had Simon Gerrans who has obviously won this race in the past, Esteban Chaves who is one of the best climbers in the world and obviously our leader here, and also Rob Power who might be new to the team but we all know his climbing prowess.

“Any one of us could have won today. We threw it out there, had the numbers, and it all fell into place for me today.”

The 24-year-old attacked the peloton alongside Kenny Elissonde (Team Sky) in the first half of the famous climb, the duo catching and passing the remnants of the day’s earlier breakaway to then lead inside the final 10kilometres.

After a number of attacks between the pair, it was Howson who was too strong as he put in a final effort with two kilometres remaining to drop the Frenchman. Young Australian Jai Hindley finished strongly for second place ahead of Elissonde who held on for third.

“It was a bit of a cat and mouse game between myself and Kenny,” Howson explained. “It was about making sure you still had the legs to finish it off but knowing you had options behind too.” 

“In the end it was one of those dream scenarios where you have enough time to think about a finish salute.” 

With three stages remaining, Howson leads the overall competition by 38seconds to Hindley and 53seconds to Elissonde. Chris Froome sits at 1:12, with Chaves at 1:15.

“Team Sky are one of the world’s strongest teams so I guarantee they are going to throw everything they have (at us),” Howson predicted. “There’s still a lot of tough stages to come, but I also have a very strong team behind me.”

How it happened:

The first road stage also served as the Queen stage as riders set off to make the journey from Wangaratta to Falls Creek, via the Tawonga Gap climb.

A breakaway of eight riders made the first move of the race, establishing a lead of just under eight minutes before Team Sky headed to the front of the peloton to control their advantage.

The break led over the Tawonga Gap climb, which didn't disrupt the relaxed peloton, and later started the final 30km Fall Creek climb with a two-minute advantage.

Power was in the first attack for ORICA-SCOTT on the final ascent but it was the move of Howson and Elissonde that was game changing.

As the duo battled in the final four kilometres, the attacks started from behind, including between Chaves and Froome who battled in attempt to drop each other.

Leaving nothing to chance, Howson attacked with two kilometres to go to win solo as the main group of favourites sprinted across the line in a little over one-minute later.

Jayco Herald Sun Tour – Stage 1 Results:

1. Damien Howson (ORICA-SCOTT) 4:33:54
2. Jai Hindley (KordaMentha Australia) +0:32
3. Kenny Elissonde (Team Sky) +0:47

Jayco Herald Sun Tour – General Classification after stage 1

1. Damien Howson (ORICA-SCOTT) 4:36:32
2. Jai Hindley (KordaMentha Australia) +0:38
3. Kenny Elissonde (Team Sky) +0:53