Leigh Howard narrowly edged out in SUBARU Australian Open Criterium

Sat 2 Nov 2013

Sprinter Leigh Howard was narrowly edged out for the win in the SUBARU Australian Open Criterium by former Orica-GreenEDGE rider Robbie McEwen. In the women’s event, Shara Gillow finished inside the top ten.

Huge crowds lined the sunny streets of Noosa today for the SUBARU Australian Open Men’s and Women’s criteriums, to witness a star filled line up that included Orica-GreenEDGE riders Leigh Howard, Simon Clarke, Luke Durbridge, Michael Hepburn and Jens Mouris and 2013 Tour de France green jersey winner Peter Sagan.

But the stunning backdrop did nothing to ease the suffering of riders in the aggressive and fast paced hour-long criterium.

“It was an extremely aggressive race today and our guys were out there for the win. Great early attacks by Jens Mouris and Luke Durbridge really set us up for a good shot at the finish, but ultimately Robbie was just too fast in the final metres,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson.

The unpredictability of the field makes this a wide-open event every year, as European-based riders in the midst of their off-season come up against in-form domestic riders.

“The timing of this race always makes it a difficult one to predict, it’s hard to know what kind of form the guys will come in with, given that it’s in the middle of their off-season. I was pleasantly surprised today with the guys’ condition, they really took charge of the race and animated the action,” said Wilson.

“Even though it’s a short race, it’s hard to convey how difficult a one-hour sprint is, especially when it’s coming off a few weeks break. It was super aggressive, but the guys were all there in the final laps, and organised a good lead out for Leigh,” added Wilson.         

Amidst the chaos of the closing laps, Mouris, Hepburn and Durbridge moved to the front in an effort to control the final sprint for Leigh Howard.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     “We really thought Leigh had landed the win, but the photo showed Robbie had just come over the top on the line. He’s always a tough competitor, we didn’t really expect him to be so close but he’s just shown he can’t be written off,” said Wilson.

A hotly contested women’s race included Orica-AIS riders Gracie Elvin, Shara Gillow and Jessie MacLean. Multiple attacks animated the early stages of the race, with Shara Gillow landing herself in many of the moves.

 “We took turns going with the attacks, and Shara put herself into some really strong moves. None of the breakaways stayed ahead for very long, but it was a really good aggressive race,” said Elvin.

After half an hour of nervous circuit racing, Katrin Garfoot and Peta Mullens made a well-timed move with two laps to go, capitalizing on the depleted and strung-out field, and finally managed to stay away for the win.

“I attacked with two laps to go, but really started to blow up. Mullens and Garfoot really took advantage of the situation at that stage and were strong enough to hold off the bunch. In the end, with such an attacking and aggressive race, we were really happy just to finish,” said Elvin.