CYCLING superstar Chris Froome created history yesterday by becoming the first Tour de France champion to win Australia’s oldest stage race.
Froome (Team Sky) explosively rode to both the stage victory and the Herald Sun Tour title in a stunning final day battle on Arthurs Seat yesterday.
The Kenyan-born Brit was pushed over the three ascents of Arthurs Seat by several challengers, in a move that ultimately forced the race lead to change hands from teammate Peter Kennaugh who had led the race from stage one.
Froome finished the stage 17 seconds ahead of Damian Howson (ORICA-GreenEDGE), with a further four seconds back to US-based Victorian Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare).
In finishing seventh on the day, Kennaugh secured runner-up position on the General Classification, 29 seconds behind Froome with Howson netting third place, 1:01 off the lead.
The 63rd winner of the event, Froome thanked Kennaugh, admitting that the result was something that “unfolded out on the road” and was not pre-planned.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better week as a team with Pete kicking things off earlier on going into the leader’s jersey, first and second on that stage and then obviously winning today – the final stage up Arthurs Seat,” Froome said.
“It’s a really nice way to end off the week. Also to be first and second on the General Classification, you really couldn’t ask for much more.”
Froome will be hoping it’s just the start of things to come as he chases a third Tour de France title, as well as a gold medal at the Rio Olympic Games.
“There’s a lot to race for this year,” he said.
“Coming here and walking away with the overall victory is an amazing way to start off the season.”
LATROBE Valley provided terrain conducive to thrilling racing during the Herald Sun Tour last week.
Moe was the scene for Friday’s frantic second stage finale in which young Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan clung on to take line honours.
The leg, which took in 144 kilometres from Yarra Glen before reaching Hill End, Willow Grove, Tanjil South and finally Moe, proved a stern test for Ewan who was forced to dig deep in an unorthodox race to the finish.
“It was much tougher than the usual sprint finishes that I’ve been used to this Summer, but the team rode awesome; they kept me out of trouble and kept me near the front on all the climbs,” Ewan said.
“It (the first Gippsland stage) was actually really hard; I didn’t really expect the wind to be so gusty. So after the climbs, it always takes a bit out of you and then to come into cross winds as well made it really hard.”
Yellow jersey leader at the time and eventual runner-up Peter Kennaugh said the course was set-up for exciting racing, as the final 15 kilometres played out in a dramatic scramble.
“You could explain them as dramatic, I guess, yeah the whole stage was quite exciting really,” he said.
“Avanti took up on the main climb, which is interesting. I wasn’t really sure why, maybe they were going for the king on that one…but either way it made for exciting racing and it also made the stage really hard.”
Despite the tough nature of the climbs on the leg, Kennaugh was able to take in some of Gippsland most scenic roads along the journey.
“Not in the first bit, but once the break went, you know you could take in some of the nice rolling countryside, so it was beautiful out there. The course was nice,” he said.
The Latrobe Valley action continued in stage three, which began in Traralgon en route to Inverloch.
Sprinter John Murphy upset Ewan, who finished sixth across the line after slogging it out over the climbs the previous day, to take the stage.
Chris Froome ultimately won the general classification, while Benjamin Hill scored the sprinters’ green jersey.
Pos Rider Team Time-gap
1 Christopher FROOME (SKY) 12h 53:00
2 Peter KENNAUGH (SKY) 29
3 Damien HOWSON (OGE) +1:01
4 Jack BOBRIDGE (TFS) +1:04
5 Jack HAIG (OGE) +1:14
6 Jonathan CLARKE (UHC) +1:15
7 Robbie HUCKER (AIW) +1:20
8 Chris HAMILTON (AUS) +1:23
9 Anthony GIACOPPO (AIW) +1:32
10 Dion SMITH (ONE) +1:32