Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) secured a hard-fought victory on stage three of the 2018 Women’s Tour Down Under on Saturday to move into the overall race lead.
The Australian had been joined earlier in the race by American rider Louise Stephens (Cylance Pro Cycling) as the two set off from a chase group in pursuit of solo escapee and former time trial world champion Linda Villumsen (VirtuCycling), who was the lone rider from the day’s break.
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Spratt and Stephens caught and passed a tiring Villumsen to set up a duel to the finish line, swiftly opening up a gap on the rest of the field, which had splintered in the windy conditions that helped shape the 2018 edition of the race.
Spratt looked the stronger of the two riders as they tackled the penultimate climb, and she left Stephens in her wake on the final ascent to the finish to take the victory, and with it the ochre jersey of race leader.
Stephens came home for second at seven seconds, with Grace Brown (Holden) in third at 59 seconds. Overnight leader and stage two winner Katrin Garfoot (UniSA-Australi) put in a spirited ride to place fourth – but it was not enough to keep hold of the overall lead.
“I was feeling very strong but you can never underestimate Lauren Stevens, she is a strong rider,” said Spratt after the finish. “I have had some battles with her in Europe over the years. I knew she would be strong, but this was my biggest goal of January, the Tour Down Under. I came in December and looked at all of the courses so I really targeted this stage because I knew it suited me. I knew the finish climb would hurt like hell, but I was ready.”
“It’s so exciting and I’m still a little bit in shock (about taking the race lead). I’m so grateful to the team for giving me the opportunity, it could have been any of the three of us that were up there on general classification so I am just so happy I could do it for the team.”
Spratt leads Stephens by 29 seconds overall, with Garfoot in third at one minute and 30 seconds.
The 2018 Women’s Tour Down Under concludes on Sunday with a final, short and fast circuit-based stage around Adelaide that is widely expected to end in a bunch sprint. Barring disaster, Spratt should retain the overall lead to take a second consecutive win – and become the first rider to ever win two editions.
Women’s Tour Down Under 2018: Stage three, Bend Motorsport Park to Hahndorf, 122.4km
1. Amanda Spratt (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, in 3-47-24
2. Lauren Stephens (USA) Cylance Pro Cycling, at 7 secs
3. Grace Brown (Aus) Holden Team Gusto Racing, at 59 secs
4. Katrin Garfoot (Aus) UniSA-Australia,at 1-33
5. Lucy Kennedy (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1-34
6. Emma Grant (GBr) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank, at 1-35
7. Mikayla Harvey (NZl) Vantage New Zealand National Team, at 1-38
8. Grace Anderson (NZl) Vantage New Zealand National Team,at 1-40
9. Chloe Hosking (Aus) Ale-Cipollini
10. Marlies Mejias Garcia (Cub) Twenty20 p/b Sho-Air, at same time
General classification after stage three
1. Amanda Spratt (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, in 9-9-52
2. Lauren Stephens (USA) Cylance Pro Cycling, at 29 secs
3. Katrin Garfoot (Aus) UniSA-Australia, at 1-30
4. Lucy Kennedy (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1-36
5. Grace Brown (Aus) Holden Team Gusto Racing, at 1-54
6. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Mitchelton-Scott, at 2-07
7. Shannon Malseed (Aus) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank, at 2-09
8. Kate McIlroy (NZl) Specialized Women’s Racing, at 2-25
9. Grace Anderson (NZl) Vantage New Zealand National Tea, at 2-42
10. Emma Grant (GBr) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank, at 2-46