Women's Tour Down Under: 'Patient' Ally Wollaston keeps her cool to take maiden WorldTour win

New Zealander beats strong Liv AlUla Jayco team in Campbelltown

Ally Wollaston
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It was, as Ally Wollaston so succinctly put it, "pretty damn hot" in South Australia on Friday. The mercury reached as high as 40 on the opening day of the Women's Tour Down Under, 93.9km from Hahndorf to Campbelltown, which took the peloton just over two and a half hours to complete.

It might have been hot - almost too hot - but Wollaston (AG Insurance-Soudal) was able to keep her cool on the long run into the finish in east Adelaide on Friday afternoon, keeping her powder dry on her sprint until just the right moment, and duly beating Georgia Baker (Liv AlUla Jayco) and Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ), in the process.

The first Women's WorldTour race day of the season, and a first Women's WorldTour win for Wollaston, the New Zealand champion, who made it look easy in the end. Despite the apparent strength of Liv AlUla Jayco, the home team was beaten by someone from the other side of the Tasman Sea.

"There was a plan today, I backed myself in the sprint," Wollaston said after she'd been awarded the first ochre leader's jersey of the race. "I've been doing quite a lot of track work with the New Zealand girls, so I knew I had a bit of fire in the legs, I just had to make it to the finish. The team did a great job of looking after me today as well.

"It was a really long run in to the finish after we turned left, and it was a really technical run in too. We just had to be patient. Previously, I have got a little bit too excited and taken on the sprint too early, so I'm really proud today of just being patient and backing myself, and going at the right time."

The 23-year-old said that she knew the win was on the cards just 10 metres from the line: "Once I'd committed to the sprint I thought I could actually win this, but it wasn't until the final few metres that I knew."

The eventual sprint followed a hard day of racing in the Adelaide Hills; this was not the pan-flat bunch finish day that some had expected.

Ruby Roseman-Gannon and her Liv AlUla Jayco team made an early statement of intent, winning the first intermediate sprint and its bonus seconds, before a strong trio went up the road, made up of Matilda Raynolds (BridgeLane), Katia Ragusa (Human Powered Health), and India Grangier (Coop-Repsol). The three were later joined by Kate Richardson (Lifeplus-Wahoo), and briefly threatened to stay away.

Raynolds was the last one standing, attacking over the top of the last classified climb. The 36-year-old, in just her second race at WorldTour level, wasn't even on her proper bike, having suffered a mechanical early in the stage, which meant she was racing on a smaller bike, without her bike computer. After her heroics, she was caught by the peloton with under 10km to go, but was awarded most aggressive rider.

Wollaston won the day and the first leader's jersey, and will be looking to keep hold of it on a hard Saturday, which might be the hardest stage of the race, despite the presence of Willunga Hill on Sunday.

"I'll have to go home and think about tomorrow now, but I'll try and hold onto the jersey as long as I can," she said. "I'll race attentively, and just not be a passenger in the race. I'll really fight for it. I race my best when I'm enjoying my racing."

The peloton will simply be hoping it's a bit cooler.

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