Australian team Mitchelton-Scott were denied victory in the women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race by Arlenis Sierra of Astana.
On Australia Day in Geelong, Cuban Sierra rode a terrific final 10km to join a lead group of climbers and then to catch and overtake Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-Scott) before soloing to victory by 19 seconds.
Kennedy’s team dominated the race’s proceedings, refusing to allow any breakaway of substance form and then having two riders in the final group of six, Kennedy joined by 2016 winner and recent Tour Down Under overall victor Amanda Spratt.
But Sierra, a stage winner in last year’s Tour of California, sprung a surprise to claim just her third career victory outside of the Americas. The 26-year-old becomes the fourth different rider to win the race since its 2016 inception.
How it happened
There was a strong field of 90 riders from 15 teams that lined up at the start in Geelong, but it wasn’t until 40km were completed of the 113km of racing that someone was allowed to jump clear of the peloton, Rachel Barbieri (Bepink) the solo attacker.
The Italian was caught soon after but that didn’t stop her teammate Nicole Steigenga from trying, too.
As the peloton entered the final 30km, the race began to split inside the main bunch. Then at 19.2km on a long climb, Chloe Hosking (Alè Cipollini) suffered a slipped chain and immediately dropped back from the main bunch, relinquishing any hopes she had of retaining her title.
With 9.5km left of the race, a reduced peloton of around 30 riders approached the Challambra Crescent climb, a 1.2km ascent averaging 8.6 percent gradient with sections of one-in-five.
A select group of five raced to the front, with Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) leading up the slopes of the climb, slightly ahead of Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), Spratt, Kennedy and Brodie Chapman (TIBCO-SVB).
As they crested the top of the climb, Sierra swelled the lead group to six. The appearance of the Cuban came as a shock given that she is more known for contesting sprints, rather than directly challenging climbers and more punchy riders.
Kennedy kept a high pace on the front, but it was her teammate Spratt who made the next short-lived attack.
There was 5.7km left to cover when Kennedy rode clear of her companions, joined very shortly afterwards by Sierra.
The chase group hovered around 15 seconds behind the leading duo, and at 3.7km Sierra powered on, settling into a time trial position and effort, subsequently distancing Kennedy with ease.
Sierra was able to maintain her distance as she rolled by the sea front on the Geelong esplanade, soloing to victory by a comfortable margin ahead of Kennedy in second and Spratt in third.
Women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race: Geelong > Geelong, 113km
1. Arlenis Sierra (Cub) Astana in 3:07.10
2. Lucy Kennedy (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
3. Amanda Spratt (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, both at 19secs
4. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) CCC-Liv
5. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
6. Brodie Chapman (Aus) TIBCO-SVB, all at 34secs
7. Rachel Neylan (Aus) Korda Mentha Real Estate Australia, at 39secs
8. Emily Roper (Aus) Korda Mentha Real Estate Australia
9. Ruth Winder (USA) Trek-Segafredo
10. Grace Brown (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 55secs