Kennaugh led the race going into stage four, which featured three ascents of the decisive Arthurs Seat climb. As the day unfolded, Froome found himself in a position to take the stage win and overall lead as Kennaugh was further behind.
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After attacking on the second ascent of Arthurs Seat in an attempt to claim the King of the Mountains points, Froome found himself out front with KOM rival Joe Cooper (Avanti-IsoWhey). The duo continued to ride ahead of the bunch, but by the third and final ascent of Arthurs Seat, Froome had gone solo to take the win as the peloton splintered behind him.
It’s the 30-year-old British rider’s first victory of the season, and the first since winning the 2015 Tour de France. It’s also the first time a British rider has won the Herald Sun Tour since Bradley Wiggins’ victory in 2009.
Manxman Kennaugh came home in seventh place to take second place overall behind Froome, with Damien Howson (Orica-GreenEdge) in third overall. Froome also topped the King of the Mountains classification after his efforts on Arthurs Seat.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better week as a team with Pete [Kennaugh] kicking things off earlier on going into the leader’s jersey, first and second on that stage and then obviously winning today – the final stage up Arthurs Seat,” Froome said after the stage.
Froome also explained Sky’s tactics, which saw him take over the lead from his team-mate on a hectic day: “It’s never easy. Even a day like today it’s never easy to win a bike race, even if you’re against people you don’t really know. You’ve got to turn yourself inside out for the result. As much as an eight-minute climb can hurt, it did.”
Kennaugh was evidently disappointed not to have continued his run in the race lead until the race’s conclusion.
“It was really quick,” Kennaugh said of the stage’s pace. “120km of flat-out racing all the way. It was hot. I’m a bit gutted not to win but Froomey won and he was the strongest throughout the race so he deserves the win.
“I’m really happy with my stage win at the start and the way I’ve started the season so, I think happy days for Froomey today and happy days for the team all round.”
Kennaugh was involved in a spat during the stage with Australian Pat Shaw (Avanti IsoWhey), and the two riders exchanged words – something which had apparently started during the recent Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, won by Kennaugh.
“That’s sport I guess. It happens but there’s no need for it in the peloton,” said Kennaugh.
Shaw’s sports director, Andrew Christie-Johnson, gave his perspective on 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.”
Jayco Herald Sun Tour, stage four: Arthurs Seat to Arthurs Seat, 122km
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky in 2-58-44
2. Damien Howson (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 17 secs
3. Jonathan Clarke (Aus) UnitedHealthcare at 21 secs
4. Christopher Hamilton (Aus) KordaMentha-Australia at 29 secs
5. Robbie Hucker (Aus) Avanti-IsoWhey
6. Jack Haig (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at same time
7. Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky at 32 secs
8. Jack Bobridge (Aus) Trek-Segafredo at 36 secs
9. Anthony Giacoppo (Aus) Avanti-IsoWhey at 41 secs
10. Dion Smith (NZl) One Pro Cycling at 43 secs
Final general classification
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky in 12-53-00
2. Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky at 29 secs
3. Damien Howson (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 1-01
4. Jack Bobridge (Aus) Trek-Segafredo at 1-04
5. Jack Haig (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 1-14
6. Jonathan Clarke (Aus) UnitedHealthcareat 1-15
7. Robbie Hucker (Aus) Avanti-IsoWhey at 1-20
8. Christopher Hamilton (Aus) KordaMentha-Australia at 1-23
9. Anthony Giacoppo (Aus) Avanti-IsoWhey at 1-32
10. Dion Smith (NZl) One Pro Cycling at 1-32