Mitchelton-Scott strengthened their stranglehold on the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under, with new signing Grace Brown winning stage three. The Australian based team had three riders in the top five, with Amanda Spratt taking fifth and continuing to lead the general classification.
Brown, who joined the team from Wiggle-High5 this year, sprinted clear of a reduced peloton to win the 104.5km race between Nairne and Stirling by two seconds ahead of Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) and Rachel Neylan (UniSA-Australia).
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Brown was one of five riders who escaped the bunch as the road ramped upwards in the final kilometre, and while she opened up her sprint early, managed to hang on to take the victory.
Though she is the reigning Oceania time trial champion and recently won the Australian national championship against the clock, the win was the first road victory of Brown’s professional career.
How it happened
After a slow start the action began with around 80 of the 104.5km stage remaining, Belgian team Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport stamping their name on the stage for the first time, coming to the front and lifting the pace.
Though on this occasion they were unable to get a break up the road, the pace remained high into the day’s first intermediate sprint in Echunga. Won by Alé-Cipollini’s Chloe Hosking, sprints competition leader Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-Scott) was third.
Immediately after, yesterday’s most aggressive rider, Rebecca Wiasak (UniSA- Australia) managed briefly to get off the front with Doltcini’s van Eyck Sport’s Ukranian rider, Tetyana Riabchenko, but both were soon brought back.
Riabchenko soon tried again, this time with Elyse Fraser (New Zealand) in hot pursuit. The Ukranian established a solo lead approaching one minute, but was caught on the descent after winning the classified climb of Red Gum Hill.
The Belgian team remained busy though, and with 30km to go sent Victoire Berteau up the road, with the characteristically aggressive Wiasak as company, though once again the duo were caught within 10km as the bunch prepared for the final intermediate sprint.
Canadian, Alison Jackson took the honours on the first pass of the finish line in Stirling, with Roy consolidating her hold on the sprints jersey in second place.
The closing circuit saw the race briefly neutralised after the bunch was sent off course, but with the race back on course it was down the Mitchelton-Scott to take control preparing for the final.
Spratt’s fifth place on the day ensured she maintains her overall lead ahead of Sunday’s final stage. The 42.5km race takes place on the Adelaide city centre circuit the men will use for their one day race later in the day.
Having crashed in the corresponding stage in 2018, Spratt will be cautious. However, the last year has been the best of her career to date, and the confidence brought by such success will likely see her to her third overall win at the event.
Santos Women’s Tour Down Under, stage three: Nairne to Stirling (104.5km)
1.Grace Brown (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott in 3-01-07
2. Ruth Winder (USA) Trek-Segafredo at 2 seconds
3. Rachel Neylan (Aus) UniSA Australia at same time
4. Gracie Elvin (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott at 4s
5. Amanda Spratt (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
6. Letizia Paternoster (Ita) Trek-Segfredo all at same time
7. Kristabel Doebel-Hickok (USA) Rally-UHC at 7s
8. Lucy Kennedy (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott at 9s
9. Emily Roper (Aus) UniSA Australia
10. Alison Jackson (Can) Team TIBCO-SVB all at same time
General classification after stage 3
1. Amanda Spratt (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott in 9-24-48
2. Lucy Kennedy (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott at 49 seconds
3. Kristabel Doebel-Hickok (USA) Rally-UHC at 55s
4. Rachel Neylan (Aus) UniSA Australia at same time
5. Jaime Gunning (Aus) Specialized Women’s Racing at 1-09
6. Alison Jackson (Can) Team TIBCO-SVB at 1-12
7. Lauren Stephens (USA) Team TIBCO-SVB at 1-34
8. Taryn Heather (Aus) Specialized Women’s Racing at 1-37
9. Emily Roper (Aus) UniSA Australia at 1-52
10. Ruth Winder (USA) Trek-Segafredo at 1-54