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“Massive thanks to the team and especially to Froomey, as once I got across to him I pretty much sat on his wheel the whole way up the climb. Then once we went over I was able to do some good turns into the finish."

Photo: Con Chronis


















04.02.2016 @ 19:54 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.


We have gathered several reactions.


Peter Kennaugh: Froome just paced me all the way to the top

Pete Kennaugh led home Chris Froome in a Team Sky 1-2 finish at Herald Sun Tour after the pair attacked late on stage one.


On the approach to the day's final climb Team Sky hit the front to drive the pace, and it wasn't long before the duo pushed clear on the first-category ramp in Toolangi. Froome made the initial move, and after opening out a handy gap he was eventually joined by the Manxman.


Beating the chasing pack home by 17 seconds, the pair crossed the line each acknowledging the other, with bonus seconds and Wednesday's prologue combining to give Kennaugh a seven-second GC advantage over the reigning Tour de France champion.


"It's awesome," said Kennaugh after taking his second victory of the year. "We had a strategy, we stuck to it and it worked."


"Obviously the race last weekend gave me a quite a bit of confidence going into today. We had a good plan for the stage which worked out absolutely perfectly. We wanted to make it hard going onto that last climb and then for Froomey to have a go. I was just to follow wheels, judge the situation and jump across if I could.


“Massive thanks to the team and especially to Froomey, as once I got across to him I pretty much sat on his wheel the whole way up the climb. Then once we went over I was able to do some good turns into the finish.


"I am not sure how long we had over the top of the climb, but the guys behind definitely must have gotten on the motorbike on the descent because at one minute we had almost a minute and then next thing, we could see them. We didn’t have a motorbike or anything in front of us, so I don’t know what was going on there, but it was strange. As soon as the motorbike disappeared from in-between us, we just pulled away again … which was five kilometres to go when we hit those little rollers we had a good idea.


"Today was a bit more controlled I guess and a bit more planned were last weekend's race was all about racing and getting out there. Today was quite like 'back to work, back to business'. We had a strategy, we stuck to it and it worked. I have to take my hat off to Froomey because there are a lot of guys in his position who wouldn’t help their teammates out like that. It was just an awesome day for the team all round I guess. It’s nice to come to these races and be able to race like this, it makes for a nice change.


"The next few stages are probably sprint days and we've got a strong team. Obviously GreenEdge want to keep it together the Caleb Ewan - so then it should just be down to the last day. I think that will suit me more than today with that final climb with that climb being shorter and more punchier."


Chris Froome: I wanted to give something back to Kennaugh

"It was a good day for us out there," added Froome. "That climb wasn't super selective on paper and I think a lot of people were expecting it to come back together for a bunch sprint. We don't really have any sprinters here so we thought let's just give it everything we've got. The guys did a fantastic job setting it up. They made it as hard as possible on the early slopes and then I took over.


"It was a really nice feeling to be able to give something back to Pete Kennaugh. The amount of times he's emptied himself for me out on the road. He's been part of both my Tour de France victories and it's nice to be able to do something for him now.


"We have the jersey and we're going to try and protect that now. Pete's in great shape. He won Cadel's race just a few days ago and we'll try to keep the jersey on his shoulders now.


"I am really happy, that’s the first real big hit out I’ve had this season and I was really happy with my feelings and I think it’s a really great start to the season for me.”


ONE Pro Cycling agonizingly close to first season win at the Sun Tour

Following on from a solid team performance in the opening prologue, ONE Pro Cycling entered Stage One of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour with big ambitions.


The strong six man roster including Kiwi riders Dion Smith and James Oram, British riders Joshua Hunt, Kristian House, Richard Handley and local favourite Steele Von Hoff worked well as a unit to set up Dion Smith for a podium position.


Following the team briefing the plan for the day was to have a man in the break so the remaining riders could sit back and look after Dion Smith, James Oram and Richard Handley for the General Classification coming into the final climb. The team were instructed to look for opportunities on the run in to the finish with either a late attack from James Oram or Richard Handley or in the perfect scenario, set Dion Smith for the sprint finish.


As soon as the flag dropped there was a lot of action and doing what he does best, Kristian House powered away slipping into a three man break from the start. Straight away, three riders from the peloton bridged across after a massive effort and the break was well and truly formed for the remainder of the day.


The break worked well together riding at a rapid pace and gaining a maximum time gap of 4 minutes. It didn’t take too long before Drapac and Team Sky set the tempo at the front of the peloton and decided to hunt down the leaders bringing the gap down to around 2.30 to give them control over the relatively short stage.


Steele Von Hoff and Joshua Hunt did a great job of protecting Smith, Oram and Handley from the wind and then positioning them with thoughts toward the finish. Approaching the final climb the leaders had 1.20 seconds but they were eventually swallowed up on the early stages of the climb with Sky setting the tempo from the bottom.


With approximately 2km to go, Kennaugh and Froome put the pressure on the group and broke away cresting the summit opening up a 30 second advantage over a chasing group of around 15 riders including James Oram. Dion Smith and Richard Handley weren’t in the mood to let the chasers get too far without them and started working well within another large chase group 15-20 seconds further back.


On the descent two riders Howsen (Orica) and Clarke (UHC) broke away and tried to bridge the gap to the Sky leaders but only managed to get halfway in the process. Meanwhile in the second group of chasers, Handley and Smith drove the group on the descent to catch the first chase group with approximately 5km to go. Driving the group and in an amazing effort, they caught the two lone riders from Orica and UHC in the final kilometer.


In the finale as the race continued to heat up, ONE Pro Cycling were name checked over the race radio as setting up the sprint. Richard Handley and James Oram organised themselves up to lead out Dion Smith and positioned him perfectly to take the sprint for third place behind leaders Peter Kennaugh and Chris Froome.


Leading on the race Sports Director Phil West commented, “The boys did a great job out on the road today, they stuck exactly to the game plan and even when under pressure over the final climb remained calm and very organised. Of course we would have liked to be able to follow the attack from Kennaugh and Froome, but we also should remember that they are two of the world’s best climbers. For the guys to react to that attack the way they did today and remain composed was more than I could have asked for. I’m really pleased with how they’re gelling together as a unit on the road and look forward to another day on the race tomorrow.’’



Orica-GreenEDGE lose out in key stage for a third overall win at the Sun Tour

Orica-GreenEDGE completed the day with a fifth place finish from Victoria's Jack Haig. Peter Kennaugh took the victory ahead of team mate Chris Froome as the duo escaped on the final climb of the day.


"It was a stage that we really needed to win to be in better contention to win the tour," said sport director Matt Wilson. "The guys really gave it a shot, Damien Howson was in a great move and could have stayed away. Unfortunately he got caught with less than 500m to go.”


Wilson continued with a positive outlook for the coming days.


“Tomorrow's another day, we'll see what happens. There's still plenty more opportunities and I think on Sunday anything can happen."


Howson found himself in a chase group of three riders over the top of the category one climb. However after the decent they lost one companion and the gap to the duo appeared too big to bridge.


"In the final there was only two of us chasing and then we got caught, so it was a lot of effort for nothing in the end," Howson said. "I should still be up there on the general classification (27 seconds down) and there's still some time."


Haig, not usually recognized for his sprinting ability, was pleased as he managed to salvage a minor placing from the bunch kick to reward the team's efforts for the day.


"I think we caught Damien with only a few hundred meters to go. I managed to follow some wheels in the sprint and finish third in the kick."


Bobridge suffers on first climbing day at the Sun Tour

Jack Bobridge of Trek-Segafredo crossed the line with a select group that sprinted for third place, 17 seconds after a one-two combined effort from Team Sky's Peter Kennaugh and Chris Froome on the final climb succeeded to the line. He ended up taking 6th on the stage.


"The stage was easy to start," explained Bobridge. "The guys were attentive all day, always riding in great position until the final climb. And then at the bottom of the final climb, the first few kilometers were too much, they were pulling too hard, so I had to go a bit easier and find my own rhythm.


"I was with a few others a little bit off the back of the front group at the top, by 10 or 15 seconds, and we chased to get them back. We caught them with 3 kilometers to go, but the two Sky riders were ahead. I went straight to the front to try and get ready for the sprint, and then had to start with 300 meters to go. With 50 meters to go it was too much and I finished sixth. But it was good – I had good legs – and now tomorrow we try again.


Bobridge sits in 8th overall, 28 seconds behind Kennaugh who crossed the line ahead of teammate Froome to claim the leader's jersey.


Julien Bernard was an unfortunate victim of an ill-timed puncture and was forced to wait for neutral wheel service, losing over 12 minutes by the finish. The savvy climber, who finished 10th overall in the USA Pro Challenge last August, lost all chance of finishing with the front group, and eliminated him from any hope of a high overall result.


The Sun Tour continues Friday with a punchy stage two, suited to the strengths of Niccolo Bonifazio.  


Sun Tour climbs too hard for Novo Nordisk riders

On Thursday, Team Novo Nordisk tackled Stage 1 of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour. The 126.1-kilometer stage began and ended in Healesville and featured two categorized climbs, including a Category 1 climb situated 20 km from the finish. A six-man break built up a maximum a gap of nearly four minutes. The final climb splintered the race and saw teammates Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) attack. The duo reached and passed the breakaway riders; they were never reeled back. Kennaugh went on to take the win and move into the overall leader’s jersey.


“There was no easy part to today,” Team Novo Nordisk’s Sport Director Pavel Cherkasov said, “In addition to being quite warm. The first hill started to reduce the group. Everyone caught back up but then the pace up the final climb was incredibly fast and shattered the whole peloton.”



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