Three in Top Ten at Jayco Herald Sun TourWed 5 Feb 2014
ORICA-GreenEDGE took three of the top ten positions on stage one of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, in an uphill sprint finish in central Ballarat. Matt Goss was narrowly edged out for the win by Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp), while Simon Clarke slotted into fourth place after leading out his teammate to the line. Simon Gerrans rounded out the trio, in eighth position.
As predicted, strong winds characterised the 116.1 kilometre stage from Geelong to Ballarat, with windy conditions also greeting the peloton in the Sturt Street finishing straight. But the conditions proved less than favourable to the Australian team’s plans and ultimately helped to keep the race together for a bunch sprint.
“The plan was to try and split things up as much as possible through the middle of the race to try and isolate the other big teams,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson. “We tried to make sure we had good numbers so we could put one of our guys in a good position to attack or get some time gaps. It didn’t work out as well as we would have liked. The guys did a great job but the weather conditions just weren’t quite right; it wasn’t as windy as we had hoped. So it seemed likely with about 30 kilometres to go that we were heading for a bunch sprint.”
On the undulating roads leading into Ballarat, the peloton was split into multiple groups, which then reformed into three main bunches. ORICA-GreenEDGE was well-placed leading into the final; with all of their six riders making the lead group of around 50 that held off the chasing groups to the line.
“There was a section about 70 kilometres in with significant winds, so the guys tried to break up the race and they managed that to a certain extent but not quite as much as we wanted,” continued Wilson. “We had all of our guys together at the finish, so they tried to get a good lead-out going. Nathan Haas jumped with about 250 metres to go and got a small gap, and Gossy just couldn’t quite get across to him.”
Goss now sits in fourth place overall, nine seconds down on leader Haas, with Simon Clarke in sixth position a further three seconds down. Simon Gerrans now trails by 13 seconds in the general classification, after his eighth place today. With time bonuses only up for grabs in the stage finishes, bridging the gaps that have already formed will be a difficult task for the Australian team in the days to come.
“We are a little bit disappointed not to get the win,” Wilson added. “We were hoping to be in the jersey after today’s stage, now we have a little bit of work to do. Haas is obviously going really strongly and he has a decent lead now. There are only time bonuses on offer for the finish, so it makes it difficult to bring back those gaps.”
At 163 kilometres, tomorrow’s stage from Ballarat to Bendigo is the longest of this year’s Jayco Herald Sun Tour. As the stage winds its way through country Victoria, the team will attempt to reverse today’s result on the roads to Bendigo. The most decisive racing is expected to come on the climb up Mt Alexander, which the riders will tackle after 120 kilometres of racing in difficult conditions, with extreme temperatures expected to hit Victoria in the coming days.
“It looks like tomorrow will be hotter but less windy than today,” said Wilson. “There’s quite a big climb up Mt Alexander with about 40 kilometres to go, so we are predicting a very similar stage to today. The finish depends on how hard that climb turns out to be, but we will be hoping for a better result in Bendigo tomorrow.”