The five-day Australian stage race provided plenty of action and a little bit of controversy...
- Photos by Graham Watson
Chris Froome wasn’t just rolling around for fun
While a lot of Chris Froome’s Grand Tour rivals are using early-season races to ease back into shape after the winter (anyone seen Alberto Contador?), Froome looked as though he was in sharp form and has now tucked away a victory that will cause his rivals to sit up and take notice.
Okay, it was the Herald Sun Tour and not Paris-Nice and riders of Froome’s calibre were thin on the ground, but he was active throughout the race and noticeably led the way on the race’s climbs, evidently relishing the opportunity to stretch his legs.
Froome’s result in the short opening time trial – 27th – shows that he perhaps started the race with little intention of going for the overall, and/or that he rode himself into condition over the following four days.
Either way, Froome is already looking dangerous.
‘Peter Kennaugh got flicked’
After Froome helped Sky team-mate Kennaugh win the opening road stage of the race, putting the latter into the overall lead, it looked and sounded like the Tour de France champion was helping Kennaugh to secure the victory. A ‘thanks’ for Kennaugh’s hard work in the past, and perhaps a thanks-in-advance for Kennaugh assisting him this season.
Kennaugh went into the final stage as leader, and looked to be in a comfortable position. However, it was his team-mate Froome that attacked on each of the three ascents of Arthurs Seat, eventually blowing the race apart and ensuring that it was he and not Kennaugh that took the stage and overall win.
There has already been some chatter on social media – I know, I shouldn’t look – that Froome ‘did one over on Kennaugh’: flicked a loyal helper for the win. There’s even been mention of the infamous Froome-attacking-Wiggins incident. Again.
However disappointed Kennaugh was for losing out on what could have been a solid win for him, both riders played the team line after the stage. It appeared Kennaugh didn’t have the momentum in the finale to prevent a possible victory from Damien Howson (Orica-GreenEdge) so Sky put its best man forward, and that just so happened to be Froome.
The two Sky riders hugged at the finish, with little sign of anything resembling animosity.
WorldTour and ‘local’ teams don’t always get along
The UCI 2.1-ranked Herald Sun Tour had three WorldTour-level teams in attendance: Sky, Trek-Segafredo and Orica-GreenEdge. Joining them on the start list were a selection of second and third division Pro Continental and Continental level teams.
Many of the southern hemisphere teams went into the Herald Sun Tour after a summer season of racing, with several of their riders in good shape and gunning for an opportunity to get one over on the big boys. There’s also a chance that some WorldTour-level riders feel that they should put ‘lower ranked’ riders in their place, though they would be reluctant to admit it.
This heady mix evidently caused a bit of friction, with a war of words reportedly erupting between Peter Kennaugh (Sky) and Australian Avanti-IsoWhey Sports rider Pat Shaw.
Kennaugh had said that he had received some abuse from the Avanti riders, including Shaw, which he obviously didn’t appreciate. The confrontation apparently continued after the stage.
Shaw’s sports director Andrew Christie-Johnson made light of the incident, saying: “There’s nothing to it other than it’s a blue that you’d have in a school yard and that’s the way it is. There was nothing more than what Kennaugh had said to two or three of our riders over the other days. Froomey acknowledged that they’ve got someone who’s a bit of a hothead and at the same time, so do we.”
Herald Sun Tour moves up a notch
With several of the top teams – including Team Sky – electing to miss out on riding the Tours of Qatar and Oman in the Middle East, it looks more and more like Australia is becoming the place to kick off the season and coincide it with team training camps.
With a move in the calendar from October to February in 2013, the long-running Herald Sun Tour is now ideally positioned to form a series of Australian races that include the People’s Choice Classic, Tour Down Under, Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
The Herald Sun Tour was arguably the best of the lot: a very short (2.1 kilometre) opening time trial provided a good launchpad, and the following mixture of flat and hilly stages provided lots of action and a few surprises.
Next year, we’re expecting more stars to turn up on the HST start list – and can we have some television coverage, please?
Ian Boswell: the hardest-working man in the pro peloton?
A domestique’s life is a tough one. Smashing away at the front of the bunch for kilometres on end, often before the television cameras are turned on so your efforts are barely recognised by the wider world… only for your team-mates to take all the glory.
So let’s take the opportunity here to pay respect to Team Sky’s Ian Boswell, who appeared to expend a huge amount of time and energy sat at the front of the peloton in the service of Peter Kennaugh and Chris Froome.
The 25-year-old American has not had many chances to grab any glory for himself, but he’s rapidly establishing himself as one of the peloton’s most effective workers.