By Jonny Long
Sunweb's Liane Lippert took the opening victory of the 2020 women's WorldTour in a rain-soaked Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
The German attacked with 5km to go on the final short, sharp incline to break clear of the front group and solo to victory for her first-ever WorldTour victory. Astana's Arlenis Sierra finished second 15 seconds later, with Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) taking third.
Leah Kirchmann (Sunweb) finished fifth, leading in a group containing Santos Tour Down Under winner Ruth Winder, who beat Lippert into second place at the Australian stage race.
Britain's Anna Henderson finished 13th in her first race for Sunweb, while her compatriot and team-mate Georgi Pfeiffer came 17th.
The peloton contended with strong winds and rain throughout the 121km route in Geelong, Australia. The weather helped the day's break hold an advantage of four minutes with 40km to go, with a big crash 20km later splitting the peloton, but the escapees were eventually reeled in up the Challambra climb with 10km remaining.
This climb then left Lippert to lead a group of the pre-race favourites up the climb before her decisive attack 5km later on Melville Avenue, with her rivals not able to bring her back in before the finish line.
After her win, Lippert said: "The team did such a good job from the beginning and they protected me through the whole day.
"We’re used to the tough conditions so it was good for us and we made the race hard in the wind. I felt really good so I attacked on the final uphill part after the bridge and I never looked back. It’s amazing, I can’t believe I’ve won my first WorldTour race. The team played a really important role in the finale; without them I couldn’t have won today."
The women's WorldTour continues on March 7 with Strade Bianche, the first event of the spring Classics season.
Women's Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race
1. Liane Lippert (Ger) Sunweb, in 3-17-46
2. Arlenis Sierra (Cub) Astana, at 15s
3. Amanda Spratt (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
4. Tayler Wiles (USA) Trek-Segafredo, both at same time
5. Leah Kirchmann (Can) Sunweb, at 21s
6. Chloe Hosking (Aus) Rally Cycling
7. Lauren Stephens (USA) TIBCO-SVB
8. Ruth Winder (USA) Trek-Segafredo
9. Ella Harris (NZl) Canyon SRAM
10. Brodie Chapman (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope, all at same time
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