In-form Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) secured the victory on stage two of the 2016 Jayco Herald Sun Tour in Australia – but it wasn’t from the expected bunch sprint.
Ewan was part of a six-rider break that had formed in the final 10 kilometres as the race traversed a loop around Moe, leaving him to battle it out with the overall contenders.
Also in the group was race leader and previous day’s stage winner Peter Kennaugh, Tour de France champion Chris Froome (both Sky), Australian champion Jack Bobridge, Jack Haig (both Orica-GreenEdge) and Tanner Putt (Untiedhealthcare).
Mindful of not being able to beat Ewan in a sprint finish, both Kennaugh and Bobridge launched attacks to try and take the stage and gain time. However, Ewan and Orica team-mate Haig reeled them in, and the six were back together as they hit the final kilometre.
Ewan launched his sprint, and only Putt followed, but simply couldn’t beat the 21-year-old Ewan, who notched up his eighth win of 2016.
“It was much tougher than the usual sprint finishes that I’ve been used to this summer,” Ewan said after the stage.
“On the final climb I knew Bobridge and Kennaugh were strong, they’ve proven that so I knew couldn’t let them get a gap over the top. I fought for dear life and was able to stay with them.”
Kennaugh came home for third place, with Froome in fourth. Kennaugh leads Froome by 13 seconds overall, with Bobridge moving up to third at 31 seconds.
“It was always going to be hard to shake Caleb off and I thought I could catch him off guard but he stuck to my wheel,” said Kennaugh.
“In the end I just stayed on the front and rode in. I could see that I had dropped Bobridge and I thought it was a good chance to get bonus seconds and also extend my lead.
“I’m quite excited for Sunday’s race to be honest hopefully we can just take it up on the climb and either me or Froome will be up for another stage win.”
Froome and the rest of Sky had controlled the race before it split: “I expected a big bunch sprint so, it was a bit more selective than that. It was a good day out there, the guys did a great job controlling for us. Pete in third place again, we’re happy with that.
“I was a little bit tired after yesterday’s effort, but it was still a good day in the saddle – another good stage down.”
Froome had worn the black and yellow jersey of King of the Mountains during the stage, but lost it to Chris Harper (State of Matter). The latter had scooped up the day’s climbing points first in a break with Yuma Koishi (Nippo-Vini Fantini), and then later on his own.
Saturday’s penultimate stage from Traralgon to Inverloch is expected to end in a bunch sprint, with Sunday’s finale including a three ascents of the tough Arthur’s Seat climb to provide one last opportunity to shake up the general classification.
Herald Sun Tour 2016, stage two: Yarra Glen to Moe, 144km
1. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge in 3-29-06
2. Tanner Putt (USA) Unitedhealthcare at same time
3. Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky at 3 secs
4. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 5 secs
5. Jack Bobridge (Aus) Trek-Seagfredo at same time
6. Jack Haig (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 14 secs
7. Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Trek-Sagfredo at 25 secs
8. John Mjurphy (USA) Unitedhealthcare
9. Patrick Shaw (Aus) Avanti IsoWhey Sport
10. Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Trek-Segafredo at same time
Overall classification after stage two
1. Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky in 6-33-21
2. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 13 secs
3. Jack Bobridge (Aus) Trek-Seagfredo at 31 secs
4. Jack Haig (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 48 secs
5. Dion Smith (NZl) One Pro Cycling at 52 secs