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WILLIAMSTOWN, Australia (CT) – The first race meet of the Australian summer of cycling is now complete and it was two internationals, Italy’s Valentina Scandolara (Ale) and the UK’s Ian Bibby (Condor-JLT), that were victorious overall, upstaging their local rivals.
Scandolara and Bibby both took the overall lead in the 2017 Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic by winning on the opening day, and both were able to defend their yellow jersey through to the end of today’s third and final stage.
Scandolara won the bunch sprint for fourth place in Williamstown today as Jessica Allen (Orica-Scott), soloed to victory ahead of former breakaway companions Lucy Bechtel (Specialized Women’s Racing – 2nd) and Ellen Skerritt (Ale – 3rd). In the elite men’s race, Bibby finished fourth as pre-stage favourite Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) burst clear of the bunch to win ahead of Brenton Jones (Condor-JLT) and Mathew Gibson (Condor).
Orica-Scott signalled their intent early in the women’s race, with Sarah Roy attacking from the gun and eventually getting a gap with Chloe Hosking (Ale) for company. Hosking refused to work, instead choosing to police the move for teammate Scandolara, but still it took roughly a third of the 45-minute criterium for the move to be accounted for.
Halfway through the race Allen and Skerritt forged a gap of their own with Bechtel soon coming across. With the big teams all happy with the composition of the break, the three leaders were able to stay clear until the end. Allen punched clear of her companions on the penultimate lap and went on to win solo as Bechtel left Skerritt behind in the final lap to take second.
In what remained of the main field, Scandolara punched clear to take fourth place and, with it, secure the overall title.
While Orica-Scott had been in with a chance at the overall victory with Amanda Spratt, that hadn’t been the main aim.
“We were only two points behind GC but we thought for us to get a stage was probably going to be more in our favour,” Allen said after the stage. “And if Spratty [Amanda Spratt] happened to get up the road with Vale [Scandolara], that would have worked great for us but we wanted to be aggressive right from the start today and that’s what we did.”
For Scandolara, overall victory wasn’t on the cards at the start of the series.
“At the beginning of the series of course I knew Orica would have been really strong so I wanted to go for some wins and see what happens,” Scandolara said. “And I won the first one — the first time in four years that I’ve worn the jersey — so I’m like ‘Alright, let’s try it’ and luckily I had my team that backed me up perfectly today.”
It took 15 minutes for the first meaningful move to go clear in the elite men’s race with Nathan Haas (VTWO) and Sam Spokes (Total Rush) opening an advantage. The pair would lead for roughly 10 minutes but would be caught roughly halfway through the hour-long race.
From there the race was in a Condor-JLT strangehold, the British team keeping the pace high to discourage any attacks. The few moves that did get clear in the latter stages of the race were quickly nullified as Condor-JLT remained attentive for overall leader Bibby.
Orica-Scott seemed content not to have to do the pacemaking and left it until five laps to go to move to the front in support of Ewan. From there they delivered the 22-year-old into perfect position ahead of the final corner which he hit from the front before sprinting to his first win of the three-day meet.
For Ewan the win, and his performance in Portarlington yesterday, bodes well for the races to come.
“Yesterday I had a bit of a dig and got away in the break and felt really good,” Ewan said. “And today as well, to win the sprint makes me feel like I’ve got bases covered coming into Nationals.”
Behind Ewan, Jones and Gibson, Bibby was finishing strongly to turn his good fortune on stage 1 into overall victory at the 2017 Bay Crits. While he came into the series in good form, Bibby admits winning stage 1 was a surprise and likewise for the overall.
“I can normally ride crits alright. I think I’ve got quite good form at the moment, which helps. But I was looking at a lot of the other lads for the series and the first day a bit of luck got me in the jersey,” Bibby said. “That was the plan then and luckily I’ve got quite good legs and managed to get a result on the other two days. Bit of a surprise, but it’s good.”
The Australian summer of cycling continues in Ballarat tomorrow with the Australian national criterium titles. The time trials follow on Tuesday, before the road races over the weekend. Stay posted to CyclingTips for coverage from the Australian Road Nationals.