February was a busy month in the 2015 season, with Chris Froome's first race of the year, the inaugural Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race, a new world Hour Record, five-day races in the Middle East and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Following an exciting January, the second month of 2015 was jam-packed with stage races and brought first wins of the year for Chris Froome, Ian Stannard and Niki Terpstra.
Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race
The 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans retired from professional cycling at his own race, following a stellar career which will see him go down in history as Australia’s greatest-ever cyclist.
Evans personally designed the 174km route, which finished with three 20.2km laps around Geelong, which also hosted the finish of the 2010 UCI World Championships road race.
The race was won by Gianni Meersman in a bunch sprint, ahead of Australians Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) and Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin). Evans himself finished in fifth, with Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) being the fifth Aussie to round out the top ten.
Dubai Tour, Tour of Qatar and Tour of Oman
February saw three stage races held in the Middle East, with the Dubai Tour followed by six-stages races in Oman and Qatar later in the month.
Mark Cavendish won the first and last stages of the second-ever Dubai Tour on his way to the overall classification and points jersey, having taken the final stage at Tour de San Luis at the end of January.
Niki Terpstra took overall victory in Qatar off the back of a commanding performance in stage three’s time trial, finishing eight seconds ahead of Fabien Cancellara and nine ahead of Bradley Wiggins around the 10.9km course. Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff won stage two, four and five to secure the points jersey.
Lampre-Merida’s Rafael Valls won the toughest stage of the Tour of Oman and kept the leader’s jersey until the end of the racing, beating stiff competition from Tejay van Garderen, Alejandro Valverde and Rafal Majka.
The race had its fair share of controversy, with stage five being shortened and neutralised after a sandstorm with winds of up to 70kmh blew over crowd control barriers and temperatures of 40°C caused several punctures.
Ruta del Sol
Chris Froome made his first appearance of the 2015 season on the road and he laid down a marker for July’s Tour de France with victory over Alberto Contador at the Ruta del Sol in Andalucia, winning the overall classification by two seconds and the sprinter’s jersey by a single point from his Spanish rival, finishing ahead of him on GC for the first time since the 2013 Tour de France.
Froome won on stage four’s mountaintop finish to secure the overall lead, gaining the 28 seconds he needed to take the jersey. Team Sky had four other riders in the top ten, with Mikel Nieve finishing fourth, Peter Kennaugh seventh and Kanstanstin Siutsou tenth.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Ian Stannard recorded his first win of 2015 with an impressive performance in the Belgian one-day race, outsprinting Niki Terpstra in the final kilometres, who continued his good February with second-place.
Stannard, who also won the 2014 edition of the race, managed to take the win despite going into the last few kilometres surrounded by three Etixx-Quick Step riders. After Tom Boonen put in the first attack with 4.5km, Stannard’s own attack dropped Boonen and Stijn Vandenbergh, leaving him and Terpstra to fight it out.
When Terpstra started his sprint early, Stannard was able to ride in his slipstream and snuck out from behind him in the closing metres to defend his title.
Rohan Dennis Hour Record
BMC’s Rohan Dennis beat Matthias Brändle’s 14-week-old world Hour Record in the second week of February, adding 639m to the previous mark to set a new record of 52.491km.
Dennis made the third successful Hour Record attempt since the UCI changed the record’s rules in 2014. Following overall victory in the Tour Down Under in January, Dennis seemed to crack in the final quarter-hour of his attempt, having seemed on course to break the 53km mark at around halfway.
But Dennis was no less pleased for it and seemed positively unruffled at the finish.
“It almost feels too easy,” Dennis said. “Obviously it wasn’t. I hope it [the record] will stay for a while.”
Elsewhere, Britain’s Sarah Storey missed out on the women’s record by 563m at Lee Valley Velo Park, but set new British and Paralympics records in the process.