Attacks come thick and fast in Australian race, as German Nikias Arndt leads home a group containing Brit Luke Rowe

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German Nikias Arndt claimed Team Sunweb‘s first victory of the 2017 season in Australia, winning the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on Sunday.

Arndt took the victory at the head of a 23-man group. One of the big pre-race favourites, Simon Gerrans (Orica-Scott), came in for second with Cameron Meyer (KordaMentha Real Estate-Australia) completing the podium in third.

Nikias Arndt wins the 2017 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

Britain’s Luke Rowe (Team Sky) put himself into the lead group and worked hard to place fifth – it’s the second time the Welshman has placed in the top five, having finished fourth in 2015.

“It’s quite frustrating. I think I pretty much rode the perfect race and was in the right place at the right time,” said Rowe after the finish.

“I felt I could have got a better result but that’s bike racing. No excuses. I think I hit my max heart-rate on each of the three climbs on the last lap! I was literally hanging on by the skin of my teeth.”

The newly-appointed WorldTour race had been an animated one over the rolling terrain of Geelong on a hilly 174km course based on that used for the 2010 World Championships.

Australian 2011 Tour winner Cadel Evans led the peloton through the neutralised zone after the start, until the flag dropped.

The peloton in the 2017 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

Irishman Conor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport) was part of an early four-man escape group alongside Alex Porter (KordaMentha Real Estate-Australia), Kirill Sveshnikov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) and Angel Vicioso (Katusha-Alpecin).

The quartet quickly built up a 10-minute lead over the peloton, but their advantage started to be seriously chipped away after 100km.

As the race hit the flashpoint of the Challambra Crescent climb on the first of three passes of the finishing circuit, the break had just under a minute on the chasing bunch, and things started to fragment.

>>> 2017 WorldTour: calendar, reports and info

A series of attacks from behind spelled the end for the break.

The likes of Tour Down Under winner Richie Porte (BMC Racing), Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) all got involved with the action as the race reached its finale.

Esteban Chaves and Richie Porte

Arndt positioned himself in the final selection and bided his time as Jack Bauer (Quick-Step Floors) unsuccessfully tried a last-minute attack, and then Meyer attempted to sprint free as the race passed under the kilometre-to-go banner.

However, Meyer’s move out front was short-lived as the fast, flat finish along the Geelong’s Waterfront saw Arndt just take the win on the line.

The Australian race season continues with the Herald Sun Tour over February 1-5, where Froome returns to the race as defending champion.

Nikias Arndt with Cadel Evans (right)

Result

Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race 2017, 174km
1. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb in 4-19-15
2. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-Scott
3. Cameron Meyer (Aus) KordaMentha Real Estate-Australia
4. Jhonatan Restrepo (Col) Katusha-Alpecin
5. Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky
6. Petr Vakoc (Cze) Quick-Step Floors
7. Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data
8. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
9. Jay Mccarthy (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe
10. Paul Martens (Ger) LottoNL-Jumbo, all same time
Other
21. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, at same time
29. James Shaw (GBr) Lotto-Soudal, at 37 secs
49. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 43 secs

Chris Froome and Michael Woods