Scott Davies lost the white jersey in a bittersweet battle more intense than that for actual race leadership during the final stage of the Herald Sun Tour on Sunday.
The 19-year-old had led the youth classification since Thursday and carried a slender one second advantage over former junior rival Robert Power (AIS) heading into the 122km queen stage at Arthurs Seat, which Patrick Bevin (Avanti) won ahead of title champion Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge).
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Great Britain worked well to position Davies on the first two ascents of the punishing Arthurs Seat climb. The young Welshman was in the mix on the final lap but could not counter Power, who last month confirmed a contract with Orica-GreenEdge for 2016, in the last 600m, finishing five seconds behind him and seven adrift of the stage winner in eighth.
“I managed to get onto Power’s wheel so it was three GreenEdge, Power and myself but to be fair to him he’s a stronger rider. He attacked once, I rode back up to him, then he attacked again for the finish and I couldn’t match his kick,” Davies said with a sweat-stained white jersey still on his shoulders post-race.
“It’s been one of my targets all winter so I’ve been chipping away. I’ve always had this in the back of my mind. I still count it as a good performance and what have you but clearly not the result I wanted. To wear it all week and then lose it on the last day, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. It’s an anti-climactic way to end the week but that happens.”
Davies’s campaign was no less noteworthy with the under-23 British national time-trial champion finishing Australia’s oldest stage race 10th overall. On the first road stage he was one of only 21 riders that made a decisive split on Mount Macedon and so determined the battle for overall honours from then on. Meyer entered the last day of competition with the same 21 riders, including Bevin, within 34 seconds.
“It’s the start of the season and I’m still up there on GC so I’ll take that as a good ride. It’s a shame to give the white jersey up but I’ll stick it in the motivation bank,” he said.
“Hopefully I can come back in the next year or two and maybe go for the yellow.”
Great Britain under-23 Academy manager Keith Lambert was pleased with the performance of his young squad that this year included Josh Edmondson, who played an important role throughout the five-day race. It served as a lifeline to the 22-year-old whose two-year neo-professional contract with Sky was not renewed at the end of last season.
“They rode exceptionally well as a team for young boys,” Lambert said.
“I think it’s helped having Josh Edmondson with them. He’s an ex-WorldTour rider and he’s got that experience on him now. He’s still only 22 himself but he’s been very helpful on the road chatting to them and keeping them organised. They benefited from that and appreciated it as well.”
Herald Sun Tour 2015 final classification
1. Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 12-30-55
2. Patrick Bevin (Nzl) Avanti at 11 secs
3. Joseph Cooper (Nzl) Avanti at 19 secs
4. Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 21 secs
5. Damien Howson (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 35 secs
6. Robert Power (Aus) AIS Under-23 National Team at 37 secs
7. Brendan Canty (Aus) Budget Forklifts at 39 secs
8. Lachlan Norris (Aus) Drapac at 40 secs
9. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
10. Scott Davies (GBr) Great Britain National Team at 41 secs