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Loes Adegeest (FDJ-SUEZ) has arrived on the Women’s WorldTour scene with a bang, winning the women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in a two-rider sprint against Amanda Spratt (Trek-Segafredo) after the duo went away on the Challambra Crescent climb nine kilometres from the finish.
Spratt took most of the turns on the run-in to the beachfront finish to make sure they stayed away, and the Australian paid for her efforts as she had nothing left to respond when Adegeest sped past on the last 200 metres to take the victory.
Four seconds later, Nina Buijsman (Human Powered Health) led home what was left of the peloton.
“It was a hard final with the steep climb and then a long sprint, so I am still catching my breath. We went for Grace, but on the first climb, I felt really strong and came over the top first. We switched to plan B, and it worked out. I still can’t really believe it, it has to sink in first. To start a season like this, it’s only January, and I already won a WorldTour race, is unbelievable,” said Adegeest after her first Women’s WorldTour victory.
How it unfolded
Starting and finishing in Geelong, the race was longer than any of the stages of the Women’s Tour Down Under: 143.1 kilometres with two ascents each of the steep Challambra Crescent and Melville Avenue provided an early season test of stamina for the women’s peloton.
After a short-lived attack from Gina Ricardo (Team BridgeLane), the most combative rider of the Tour Down Under, it was her teammate Sophie Edwards and Keely Bennett (ARA Skip Capital) who went away and built an advantage of 2:45 minutes.
Trek-Segafredo and Jayco-AlUla took up the chase and reeled in the breakaway as they reached the Great Ocean Road, but the wind wasn’t strong enough to force echelons. Trek-Segafredo continued to attack as they turned north again after Barwon Heads but could not force a breakaway.
After a calmer phase, Alisha Wells (ARA Skip Capital) got off the front with 44 km to go, and Kerry Jonker (Coop-Hitec Products) went after her, trying to bridge from the peloton. Wells had a one-minute gap, but when Jonker finally caught up with her, the peloton wasn’t far behind anymore, catching them with 32.5 km to go, six kilometres from the first ascent of Challambra Crescent.
Krista Doebel-Hickok (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) was the first to attack on the climb, with Spratt quickly bridging. Adegeest and Nikola Nosková (Zaaf Cycling) also came across, and Adegeest was first over the top. Five more riders came up on the descent, forming a front group of nine that also included Simone Boilard (St Michel-Mavic-Auber93), Danielle De Francesco (Zaaf Cycling), Lauren Stephens (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB), Australian champion Brodie Chapman (Trek-Segafredo), and Claire Steels (Israel-Premier Tech Roland).
On Melville Avenue, Boilard was dropped from the front group while Rachel Neylan (Australia) made it across. The front group was 22 seconds ahead at the top of this climb but lost ground to the chasing peloton and was caught just before passing the finish line to start the final lap.
Lauretta Hanson (Trek-Segafredo) counterattacked immediately and was followed by Georgie Howe (Jayco-AlUla) and Stephens, but the peloton brought them back after less than two kilometres. Only about 30 riders were still in the bunch as they fought for position ahead of the final climbs, and Hanson did another turn before Challambra Crescent that saw her break away from the group.
Alex Manly (Jayco-AlUla) attacked into the climb and went over Hanson but was quickly caught by Chapman. Nosková was the next to attack, and this spurred on Spratt to make her move. Although it was well-anticipated, only Adegeest could stay on Spratt’s wheel as her teammate, Women’s Tour Down Under winner Grace Brown, was dropped from the peloton.
Adegeest and Spratt dropped Nosková on the steepest part of Challambra Crescent and crested the climb with a nine-second lead on the next group. On Melville Avenue, Georgia Williams (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) made her move from the chase group, and Steels, Chapman, and Neylan went after the New Zealander.
Spratt and Adegeest were still about ten seconds ahead, and after a few kilometres where Spratt had to do all the work, Adegeest took her turns again while the four chasers couldn’t agree to cooperate well. The front duo increased their gap to 22 seconds at the two-kilometre mark, and the peloton caught the chase group with 1.5 km to go.
On the final kilometre, Adegeest and Spratt played cat-and-mouse with each other, gambling everything to force the other to the front.
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