ORICA-GreenEDGE wins Team Classification at Mitchelton Bay Cycling ClassicSun 5 Jan 2014
Defending series champion Caleb Ewan (Subaru NSWIS) won the tightly fought Williamstown criterium at the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, after taking a small gap on the field going into the final corner. A chaotic bunch sprint ensued, with Matt Goss finishing fifth and Leigh Howard in seventh. With three riders in the top six overall, ORICA-GreenEDGE took out the final team classification.
ORICA-GreenEDGE went into the final day of racing in the Victorian criterium series one rider short, after Luke Durbridge came down with an illness following yesterday’s win at Portarlington.
“Durbo woke up with a sore throat today,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson. “So we prioritised his Nationals preparation and decided to rest him today. It wasn’t really a day for him today anyway, but we missed his extra horsepower in controlling the race and leading out. It meant we used up our other guys early on and that only left Howard and Gossy for the final.”
After four days of racing, the general classification was still up for grabs, making for a nervous hour of racing in Williamstown. ORICA-GreenEDGE was lucky to avoid a crash in the late stages of the race that brought down some of the main overall contenders and split the bunch in two.
“There were a few breakaway attempts today,” continued Wilson. “But none of them were too dangerous, so our guys just tried to control and keep things together for a bunch sprint for Gossy. Fortunately the guys were all well positioned at the front when the crash happened, so none of them were caught up in that.”
In a day touted as a likely bunch sprint finish, the bigger teams maintained a constant presence at the front of the peloton, never letting any moves make up too much ground. In a chaotic lead in to the final bunch sprint, teams jostled for position in an attempt to set up their sprinters for the win. Caleb Ewan jumped ahead of the field leading into the final corner with about 300 metres to go and managed to hold off the bunch to the line.
“Howard got into position and led out Gossy in the final, but it wasn’t the ideal lead out given that there was only one rider left,” explained Wilson. “Caleb (Ewan) was clear of the bunch at that point, so he was hard to beat from that position.”
“We didn’t get the result we were aiming for today, but we’re very happy with the week in general,” Wilson added. “We came here with the aim of winning at least one stage, so we doubled our expectations. Taking out the team classification wasn’t on our radar, but we’re happy to walk away with that. It’s a bonus at the end of a successful week of racing.”
With only a small handful of days remaining until the opening race at the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships, the team is feeling confident that their early season preparations have been on track.
“Most importantly, we are where we want to be one week out from the Nationals, which is a major goal for us,” Wilson said. “All of our guys are obviously in great form, they’ve worked hard over the off-season and they’re exactly where we would hope they’d be ahead of the Australian summer of racing, which includes two huge objectives for our season- the Nationals and Tour Down Under.”