Leader: Damien Howson, Orica-Scott
You could have got long odds on Damien Howson winning the Herald Sun Tour before the race started, but the Aussie laid the foundations for overall victory with an early attack on stage one’s long Falls Creek climb, over a minute ahead of more fancied riders like teammate Esteban Chaves and defending champion Chris Froome.
Holding on to that lead was far from straightforward, but the 24-year-old managed to survive ill-timed punctures (stage two), mass crashes (stage three) and attacks from Froome (stage four) to land a career-first stage race victory.
Team Captain: Bernie Eisel, Dimension Data
A recurring theme of last week’s racing was the extreme weather protocol, which was put into effect at the Dubai Tour and the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.
Such circumstances require strong leadership to represent the interests of the peloton, so credit to the veteran Eisel who, in the absence of a nominated spokesperson from the riders’ union the CPA, stepped up to persuade the organisers to cancel the sandstorm-affected Dubai Tour stage four.
Sprinter: Marcel Kittel, Quick-Step Floors
Amid all the furore surrounding the left hook he received courtesy of Andriy Grivko, it’s easy to overlook how, either side of wiping blood off his face, Kittel totally dominated the bunch sprints at the Dubai Tour.
He may have benefited from a couple of unfortunate Mark Cavendish mechanicals for his first and third sprint win, but the way he came from so far back to collect his second suggests the occasionally inconsistent German is starting 2017 in top form.
Climber: Nairo Quintana, Movistar
By attacking at the very base of the 4km, super-steep Mas de la Costa, Quintana made it clear that he did not just want to win the stage, but the overall classification of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana too.
Being the force of nature that he is, the Colombian managed just that, dropping the entire field by enough of a margin to climb to first overall, all without ever looking so much as out of breath.
Wildcard: Luke Rowe, Sky
Though he’s spent most of his career in the service of others, it’s still surprising that Rowe hadn’t won a race in over four years before triumphing on stage two of the Herald Sun Tour. The Welshman nevertheless demonstrated impressive killer instinct to get the better of the rest of a 10-man group with a late attack.
Domestique: Bob Jungels, Quick-Step Floors
If his huge turns at the front for Quick-Step Floors at the Dubai Tour are anything to go by, Jungels looks set to follow in the footsteps of Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin as the latest time trial specialist whose huge engine provides is an invaluable weapon for his team.
Domestique: Esteban Chaves, Orica-Scott
Other riders with similar prestige but bigger egos might have turned their nose up at having to perform domestique duties for a less-renowned teammate, but the typically courteous Chaves was happy to work in support of eventual winner Damien Howson at the Herald Sun Tour.