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Kennaugh and Froome crushed the opposition on the Mt St Leonard and held off a select chase group on the long descent to make it a 1-2 for Sky on stage 1 of the Herald Sun Tour; Kennaugh won the stage and is the new leader

Photo: Con Chronis








04.02.2016 @ 13:08 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Team Sky confirmed that they are by far the strongest team in the Herald Sun Tour when they completed dominated the first stage of the race to set Peter Kennaugh and Chris Froome up for a British 1-2. The pair escaped on the climb of Mt St Leonard inside the final 30km and held off a select group of chasers by 17 seconds on the 20km descent, with Dion Smith (ONE) winning the sprint for third. Kennaugh was allowed to take the win and is also the new leader of the race.


Many were surprised that Chris Froome decided to start his season at the relatively small Herald Sun Tour. After all, the field is mainly made up of small continental teams and when the start list was announced, it was clear that a very strong Sky team would be in a class of their own.


As expected they suffered a bit in the very explosive prologue but today they stamped their authority on the race when it was time for the first climbing. After a dominant ride, Peter Kennaugh and Chris Froome finished off perfect teamwork by dropping everybody else and making it a 1-2 for the British team.


The stage included the category 1 climb of Mt St Leonard inside the final 30km and this is where Sky made their move. They did a lot of damage on the ascent to whittle down the peloton significantly and Jack Bobridge (Trek) and race leader William Clarke (Drapac) were among the riders to lose contact. At the 97km mark, they brought the early break back and continued to set their fast pace.


Halfway up the climb, Froome made his move and Kennaugh quickly bridged across. The pair put 25 seconds into the peloton from which Damien Howson (Orica-GreenEDGE), Ben Dyball (Australia) and Jonathan Clarke (Unitedhealthcare) escaped.


Froome led Kennaugh over the top while Dyball and Clarke were first from the chasers 19 seconds later. After Kennaugh had sat on during the climb, the two Sky riders started to trade pulls as a 29-rider chase group was formed behind.


The Sky pair had to dig deep but they managed to hold off their chasers, with Kennaugh leading Froome across the line to take his second win in less than a week. 17 seconds later Dion Smith (ONE) beat Anthony Giacoppo (Avanti) and Jack Haig (Orica-GreenEDGE) in the sprint for third.


With the win, Kennaugh takes the leader’s jersey with a 7-second advantage over Froome while Smith is 23 seconds behind in third. He will try to defend his position in tomorrow’s second stage which should give the sprinters a chance to shine. The lumpy stage includes three smaller climbs at the midpoint but the second half is mainly descending. In the end, the riders will tackle a small categorized ascent inside the final 10km and this could potentially be used as a launch pad for an attack that can deny the sprinters the chance to sprint for glory.


A hilly stage

After the prologue, the first serious climbing was on the menu on the second stage when the riders tackled 126.1km around the city of Healesville. After a flat start, the riders tackled a category 2 climb and a tricky descent at the midpoint but the real test was the category 1 Mt St Leonard which summited just 20.6km from the downhill run to the finish.


The riders had perfect conditions when they rolled out for 3.6km of neutral riding. All riders that finished the prologue were present when the flag was waved to signal the official start.


Six riders get clear

As expected it was a fast start with lots of attacks until three riders moved clear. They were joined by another three riders to form a sextet that quickly pushed their advantage out to a minute at the 6.5km mark.


Kristian House (ONE), Giacomo Berlato (Nippo), Nicholas Katsonis (State of Matter), Alistair Slater (JLT), Craig Evers (DATA#3) and Ben Hill (Attaque Team Gusto) worked well together to push their gap out to 3.24 before the peloton started to chase. Team Sky and Drapac assumed their position on the front and kept the gap just below the 4-minute mark for most of the first half of the stage.


A crash splits the break

It reached a maximum of 4.00 but at the 54km mark it had been reduced to 3.25. Moments later Evers made a short-lived attack to win the first intermediate sprint ahead of Hill and Slater.


The escapees worked well together on the first categorized climb where Berlato led Katsonis and House over the top. However, disaster struck on the descent where both Katsonis and Evers hit the deck and it was only the latter who managed to rejoin the break.


Sky up the pace

Sky had applied the pressure on the climb to whittle the peloton down but safely negotiated the tricky descent. Unfortunately, that was not the case for Lucas Hamilton (Australia) and Patrick Sharpe (St. George) who both crashed out of the race.


The gap was down to 2.37 at the 85km mark before Hill beat House and Evers in the second intermediate sprint. Sky was now in full control and had brought the gap down to 1.45 at the bottom of the final climb. Moments later the break was caught and Froome and Kennaugh made their race-winning move.



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