It was a final stage win for Josie Talbot (Sydney Uni-Staminade) on Phillip Island, with Georgie Howe (Knights of Suburbia) securing the overall Mitchelton Tour of Gippsland title with a top ride.
The Phillip Island town of Rhyll played host to the riders for the final stage of the Mitchelton Tour of Gippsland, with warm, breezy conditions greeting the peloton.
The women’s race began with a steady tempo, the teams of the sprint favourites and the overall contenders content to consolidate their positions within the race. Surges from Matilda Raynolds (Inform TMX Make) and Josie Talbot (Sydney Uni-Staminade) were neutralised, with the intermediate sprints contested in the battle for seconds on the overall and the Simon Anderson sprint classification.
The final few laps were a battle of the sprint trains to position their fastest rider first in the line for the sprint.
The flat, fast finish was taken out in the end by Josie Talbot who launched up the far side, forcing all that wanted to pass her to ride in the wind. The Sydney Uni-Staminade rider outmuscled Amber Pate (Inform TMX Make) and Maeve Plouffe (ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) to take the win.
“It took us three days to take the win but we got there in the end,” said Talbot. “We had riders on the front stringing it out and putting me in the perfect position, I just had to protect myself on the corners and make sure no one snuck up the inside. I sprinted up the inside, which was a bit more sheltered and managed to get the win.”
Overnight race leader Howe finished in fourth to take out the Mitchelton Tour of Gippsland overall after her superb solo win the day before.
“It’s a surreal experience,” said Howe. “Everytime I looked around, there was one of them there protecting me, protecting the race win and I managed to get the ‘w’ for the tour… an incredible tour.
“We have a phenomenal culture in this team. It’s what Knights of Surburbia is about as a team, and the modus operandi is that we’re not just here to roll around.”
Plouffe had been the leader overall after his opening stage win, but she ended up second overall, with Pate finishing third overall.
The Simon Anderson Consultants sprint classification was won by Maeve Plouffe, with Justine Barrow (Roxsolt Liv SRAM) taking out the Findex mountains classification, with Sophie Edwards (ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) winning the Warragul Crownlea young rider classification as the top Under 23 rider in the race. Inform TMX Make won the teams classification for the race.
The overall NRS standings saw a bit of a shake-up with Plouffe moving into the overall lead of the domestic series, with the ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast rider building upon her strong showing at the Festival of Cycling in South Australia, with another stage win and overall podium finish in Gippsland. ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast also took the overall lead in the NRS team standings, with 645 points to Knights of Surburbia’s 508.
It was the fast-finishing Cameron Scott (ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) who flashed home to take out Stage 3 of the Mitchelton Tour of Gippsland as Kane Richards secured the overall title with a strong ride on the final day criterium to confirm his overall race victory.
“We won the stage before, the idea was to do the exact same thing today,” said Scott. “The plan was to stay together with my teammates, other riders normally give you a bit of room when you’re on your teammates’ wheel.”
Teammate Kane Richards didn’t shirk working for his teammate Scott, and was rarely far from the front of the peloton in the battle for position.
“I figured if we tried to go for the stage win,“ said Richards, “I’d be up there anyway and I’d be ok in the general classification, kill two birds.”
Richards crossed the line with the fight for the general classification all sewn up able to celebrate with his squad after three days of hard racing on the Bass Coast.
“The team rode super well,” said Richards. “I had some good form coming off TDU (Festival of Cycling) and nationals, so it was good to put that to use.
“It’s been heaps of fun, it’s been good to have a few hard climbs. We’re heading from here to the Melbourne to Warrnambool now, it will be a different style of race, a bit longer. I think there’s going to be a big game of scissors-paper-rock to see who’s leader,” Richards joked. “I think it will be whoever’s good on the day.”
The men’s race got off to a controlled start with ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast setting a hard tempo to dissuade any attacks with arguably the teammate of the Tour, Angus Lyons, producing another top-tier ride at the front of the main bunch.
After 20 minutes of racing, there was an attack of four riders with Aidan Buttigieg (Nero Continental), Will Golding (Onyva), Sam Eddy (Team Bridgelane) and Daniel Luke (Oliver’s Real Food Racing) jumping clear of the peloton. The quartet only ever enjoyed a slim advantage, with the inexorable Lyons at the head of the peloton, eventually dragging the escapees back into the fold.
A series of small attacks from there were covered and the race look set for a sprint to decide the stage.
Nero Continental tried to take control of the race from a few laps out, but it was Inform and ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine who resumed their battle from the previous stage to deliver Brenton Jones and Cameron Scott, respectively, to the final sprint in perfect position.
Jones took it out early, leading around the final corner, but it was Scott who had the strength to come round the former National Criterium champion to secure his second stage win in two days, a clean sweep at the Tour of Gippsland for the men’s ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast team.
Kane Richards topped the overall podium, winning by 10 seconds over Liam Johnston (Inform TMX Make) with Cyrus Monk (CycleHouse) in third a further seven seconds down.
Johnston also won the Warrragul Crownlea young riders jersey with his performance, while Cameron Scott took out the Simon Anderson Consultants Sprint Classification.
The Findex mountains jersey was won by Nicholas White (Team Bridgelane), a fitting tribute to his superb solo ride on the second stage of the race.
James Whelan (Team Bridgelane) retained the lead in the overall National Road Series standings by virtue of his fourth overall finish combined with his earlier Festival of Cycling victory.
Team Bridgelane also maintained their hold on the teams' standings, their current tally of 757 points, being challenged by ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast's 655 and Inform TMX Make's 562.
The final race of the women’s Under 19s was typical of the entire Tour, an attacking affair that saw a strong group of four get up the road and contest the final sprint, with Belinda Bailey claiming her second win of the Tour. Overall, it was Isabelle Carnes (ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) who triumphed by virtue of her big Stage 1 win, with Bronte Stewart (Sydney Uni-Staminade) second just six seconds behind and Talia Appleton (99 Bikes Women’s Academy) over two minutes behind in third.
The Under 19 men’s race was an aggressive race, with constant surges at the front of the race and small groups and individuals trying their luck off the front. In the end it was a strong sprint from Hamish McKenzie (ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) that saw him take the finish ahead of Oscar Chamberlain (CCS Cycling) and Luke Tuckwell. The overall title went to William Eaves after his successful long-range solo move on Stage 1, with McKenzie second and William Heffernan third.
Fortune favours the bold, and the saying was proven true by Georgie Howe (Knights of Suburbia), who built a race-winning lead from an attack on Mt Misery, then nearly 70 kilometres of riding by herself in a lone breakaway to claim victory in Inverloch.
Howe won by a margin of 42 seconds, ensuring that she would overtake overnight leader Maeve Plouffe (ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) and move to the top of the overall standings.
“The plan was always to attack on the climb. Inform were setting a good pace, Emily (Watts) attacked, and as soon as I saw that she was coming back, I chose that time to attack, hoping someone would come with me, but it ended up just being me, myself and I. I just choofed on, picked a powerzone and stuck to that.”
Behind Howe, there were discussions among the squads about who was primarily responsible for the chase, with the resultant lull in speed, giving Howe more space than was prudent for the teams hoping to prevent her from winning.
“To be fair, I was doing about 40 kilometres an hour,” said Howe, “so the bunch would have to have been pretty organized to bring that back. I was confident that if I just stuck to that power and got my head down that I could go to the line.”
An early attack from Inverloch was neutralised by the peloton, with the imposing climb of Mount Misery an early spark point in the race.
Emily Watts (Knights of Surburbia) started the attacks on the climb, surging away from the group before counterattacks from Alyssa Polites (Sydney Uni-Staminade) and Georgie Howe (Knights of Suburbia) caught and passed Watts.
Howe kept going over the top and pushed out to a solo lead, the former rower steadily expanding her lead with a strong, sustained effort. Around the Kongwak circuit, Howe pushed out her lead to a maximum of two minutes and seven seconds with 25 kilometres left to race.
The continued pace of the larger group saw Howe’s lead diminished on the run to the finish, but she powered through, punching the air as she crossed the line 42 seconds ahead of the chasing group, which was led home by Amber Pate (Inform TMX Make) ahead of previous race leader Maeve Plouffe, who relinquished the yellow jersey to Howe.
It was a triumphant return to the top step of the podium at national level for Cameron Scott (ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) as he won the sprint on Stage 2 of the men’s Mitchelton Tour of Gippsland in Inverloch.
It was a fast, technical finish to the race, with Scott rounding the final corner on the inside, able to hold off Brenton Jones (Inform TMX Make) and Myles Stewart (Nero Continental) in the dash to the finish as he continued ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast’s winning form at the race.
“As a team we had a responsibility with the yellow jersey,” said Scott, “which meant we had to ride and we were on the front all day. My teammates did an unreal job keeping the breakaway. It came back and we just got ready for the leadout. We did everything right and it paid off in the end.”
Scott was one of the worst affected by a crash in the National Tour in the Tweed towards the end 2020, with the softly spoken sprinter completing a remarkably quick recovery from a broken sternum and internal injuries. He spoke of his joy at getting back to the top step of a national level podium.
“It feels awesome, it’s taken a bit to get in form again,” said Scott. I took it easy from the start and looked to rebuild slowly again. I’ve done a few races over the summer and been close a few times, it’s really nice to get back on top.”
It was an early breakaway of good quality, with Melbourne to Warrnambool and Under 23 men’s road race winner Nicholas White (Team Bridgelane) in there along with Myles Stewart, Tali Lane Welsh (Giant Racing), Daniel Luke (Oliver’s Real Food Racing) and Joel Green (Cyclehouse) jumping away on the flat section out of the start/finish in Inverloch.
They stretched out their lead heading into the hills with the appropriately named Mount Misery an early obstacle for the riders. Green was dropped on the early slopes and returned to the peloton, with the leading five reduced to four.
There was an attack from the main bunch, with James Whelan (Team Bridgelane) trying to launch his way over to his teammate at the front of the race. He was marked by race leader Kane Richards (ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast), 2nd placed Liam Johnston (Inform TMX Make) with Cameron Scott (ARA Pro Racing Coast) there as well. With the move followed, Whelan didn’t continue the attack, and the pace slackened behind, with the four leaders pushing out their lead to three minutes with 57 kilometres left in the race.
The main group woke up under the impetus of ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast and Inform TMX Make and began to steadily decrease the leaders’ advantage. With the gap down to just over a minute with 22kms to go, White launched a big attack on a climb, immediately gaining a big lead on his former breakaway companions.
White kept his lead for a good period, pushing a big gear as he fought to hold off the teams spoiling for a sprint. He was captured with just over ten kilometres remaining with the flat finish outside Inverloch Primary school set for a sprint.
ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast battled Inform TMX Make through the technical finale to position their sprinter, Scott, first through the final corner, with the Wagga local finishing the job, holding off Jones and Stewart to win.
The Under-19's Stage 2 were raced hard, with a strong group in the Under-19 men's race brought back before William Heffernan won the bunch sprint. Bendigo local Belinda Bailey was the quickest in the sprint finish in the Under-19 women's race, propelling herself to win with a powerful effort over the slight uphill run to the finish line on Lynnes Rd.
The Mitchelton Tour of Gippsland got underway with a tough, attritional men’s race that produced a superb winner as Kane Richards of ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast emerged the victor, outmuscling a group of three in the final dash to the line at Woolamai Racecourse.
It was a strong sprint after such a hard day’s racing, with Richards ecstatic with the result.
"Heaps of fun and a lot of tactics came into play because it was three versus two and then three on one with Bridgelane so really had to play the game a bit," said Richards, "and even risk losing it to be there at the end but it was all good."
Richards will hold the overall race lead heading into a tricky course for Stage 2 departing from and finishing at Inverloch, with three rivals very close on the general classification.
Earlier in the day, a group of five broke away on the first lap to form a dangerous combination of Ben Carman (Nero Continental), Brenton Jones (Inform TMX Make), Ben Metcalfe (Team Bridgelane), Angus Lyons (ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) and Will Moloney-Morton (CycleHouse), building up a lead of three minutes through the first lap.
A strong chase from the main bunch quickly diminished the lead of the front five, rapidly hauling in the escapees on the second of four hilly circuits of the 27-kilometre course around Woolamai.
What would turn out to be the winning move surged clear midway through the race, with five riders jumping clear after the early breakaway had been dragged back. Angus Lyons (ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast), Richards, Cooper Sayers (Nero Continental), Liam Johnston (Inform TMX Make), Alastair Christie-Johnston, Jean Pierre Van der Merwe (both Team Bridgelane), were joined by a bridging pair of Cyrus Monk (CycleHouse) and National Road Series leader James Whelan (Team Bridgelane) to form an impressive front group.
With three laps to go the octet had a slim lead but pushed out their advantage over the peloton until the effort gave out in the chase, with the front riders battling it out for the stage win and early favouritism in the battle for the overall Mitchelton Tour of Gippsland victory.
Bridgelane looked to take a stranglehold on the race as Van der Merwe and Christie-Johnston jumped clear at the start of the fourth and final 27-kilometre lap with Whelan following behind. Lyons buried himself for Richards to drag the escaped pair back, with Whelan getting his chain stuck in the bottom bracket and having to stop before attempting to chase back on.
Richards, Monk and Johnston made the most of the situation to jump away on the final loop of climbs, with Whelan chasing behind. The trio came into the finish, with Monk dropping off just at the end as Richards launched a long sprint, overpowering Johnston to the line for his first NRS victory of his career.
“We rode really well in the first few laps, we were in every move. Unfortunately, in that final lap I dropped my chain and it was stuck in the bottom bracket. I lost a bit of time I think about ten seconds (25 seconds), not a complete disaster but frustrating not to be able to pull it off after all the work the team put it, but I’m still in there for GC.”
In the women’s race it was a case of fireworks on the final lap as ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast weathered a series of attacks on the final climb to put sprinter Maeve Plouffe in with a chance to win on the fast sprint in Woolamai Racecourse, with the track star delivering in style ahead of Amber Pate (Inform TMX Make) and Josie Talbot (Sydney Uni-Staminade).
Plouffe revealed that she had to dig deep to put herself in a position to win after being left behind by the pace on the climbs halfway through the race.
“I was actually dropped in the middle of the race, that was terrifying, but we rode back on and managed to recover,” said Plouffe. “That last climb, there was a big attack on that steep bit at the end of the climb and I just used that track power to bridge on over, I knew there was only a minute or so left. I just ran in the wheel for the last kilometre or two, I didn’t touch the wind.
“I tried not to sprint too early this time, I’ve gotten into a bad habit of sprinting with 500 metres to go, I toned it down on this one and waited until 200.”
The first two laps of the race were kept together in the women’s event, with the short-lived attacks of Alyssa Polites (Sydney Uni-Staminade) particularly prominent as the rising star of the sport tried to force a move clear.
Attacks continued to flow and be stymied, with the most likely looking split forming over the top of the main climb on the second lap, but the main contenders were all back within a chance for the win as they entered the finale 27-kilometre lap of the picturesque Woolamai circuit.
The decisive move came at the top of the final climb, with just a rapid descent and the flat run into the finish remaining. Plouffe was able to latch and delivered a powerhouse sprint from the front of the group to win, holding off Pate and Talbot to win in style, with Courtney Sherwell (Roxsolt Liv SRAM) and Georgia Howe (Knights of Surburbia) also finishing in the front group.
13 riders sit within 28 seconds of the overall race lead off Plouffe, with a number of teams no doubt looking to reverse that equation as they tackle Mount Misery on Stage 2 of the Mitchelton Wines Tour of Gippsland.
The Under 19s races were taken out by William Eaves (Tasmania Institute for Sport) in a superb solo ride and Isabelle Carnes (ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) as she won the two-up sprint on the fast finish.
Stage 2 of the Tour of Gippsland will start and and finish within the seaside town of Inverloch, the stunning coastal vistas adorning the peloton's excursion through the Bass Coast.
New Movistar rider Sarah Gigante has added huge fire power to an already strong field at this month’s Mitchelton Tour of Gippsland and the inaugural Lochard Energy Women’s Warrnambool Cycling Classic, announcing that she will start her 2022 season in the Australian races.
After wearing the green and gold at Tokyo before signing a three-year deal with the giant Spanish team, the 21-year-old is staying in Australia to continue her recovery from the heart condition that derailed her 2022 season, testing her legs against former domestic rivals in the National Road Series.
“This is an important step on my pathway back to the pro peloton,” said Gigante. “Nothing can quite compare to hurtling along narrow cobbled roads in Belgium in a huge European peloton, however the aggressive and punchy racing here will hopefully help me find my race legs again before I join Movistar in the Women's World Tour!”
And this weekend’s Tour of Gippsland has some wonderful memories for the one-time ambitious teenager who cut her teeth learning the craft in the verdant valleys.
“Racing in the NRS has played a huge part in my development, from my first race in East Gippsland back when I was 16, heading down there with my mum and brother, hoping each day just to hold onto the bunch for as long as I could!
“A few years later I remember my first ever podium very well there. It was one of my first tours with Holden Women's Racing, alongside riders like Shannon Malseed and Kimberley Wells, who won that tour!
“On the last day, on a wet hotdog criterium, I slipped into a breakaway with Ruby Roseman-Gannon and Anya Louw. I finished second and couldn't stop grinning!”
Gigante will get a shot at making cycling history at the first ever ‘Women’s Warrny’. The Lochard Energy Women’s Warrnambool Cycling Classic will be raced on February 20th, joining the overall Powercor Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic which has been run since 1895.