RALLY CYCLING's Women's Team did not wait long to stamp their authority on this year’s event, seizing control of the peloton in the closing kilometers of stage 1 and launching Australian criterium champion Chloe Hosking to a resounding victory and the first leader’s ochre jersey.
“It’s so fantastic that in our first race we are really coming together as a unit and backing each other,” said Hosking. “We had nothing to lose coming into the race and we gained so much more than results.”
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Stage 2 from Murray Bridge to Birdwood turned into more of a competition for the climbers as Sara Poidevin, Heidi Franz, Leigh Ann Ganzar, and Krista Doebel-Hickok fought hard to keep team sprinter and race leader Hosking in contention for the overall. Hosking fell to fifth on GC, 21 seconds down on new race leader Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott).
“It was an incredible fight by everyone from the team to be a significant factor in the race,” said team director Joanne Kiesanowski. “They have really stepped up their game having Chloe as their teammate.”
A dirt road climb and an uphill drag to the finish awaited the peloton on stage 3 and the ladies went on the offensive in an attempt to regain the race lead and chase their second stage victory.
Franz led a select group through the dirt while Poidevin looked after Hosking in the crosswinds, but it was Ganzar who nearly stole the show. The Austin, Texas resident attacked out of the field with 12 km remaining and quickly built up a 50-second gap.
Alarm bells went off in the WorldTour led peloton as the panicked chase saw Ganzar brought back into the fold with 1 km remaining. Ganzar’s effort earned her the Most Combative prize and allowed Hosking and Doebel-Hickok to conserve energy for the finish. Hosking would finish fifth and move into fourth on GC.
“This is my first race with the team and it has been a great experience,” said Ganzar. “On the bike, we communicate well and have a lot of cohesion. Off the bike, we have a lot of fun. It’s been an awesome start to the season.”
The stage favorite for the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under finale was Hosking and the whole peloton knew it. Having previously won in downtown Adelaide on two separate occasions and dominating this year’s opening sprint, it was going to be an uphill battle for the Aussie who was chasing her sixth victory of 2020.
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In the closing laps of the criterium, a breakaway of 12 riders escaped. Sensing the danger was Ganzar who quickly marked the move. As the lap counter ticked down the breakway dangled off the front of the peloton but soon the chase became disorganized and Ganzar was left out front to challenge for the stage win.
Ganzar came desperately close to the stage podium to finish fourth while Hosking mopped up the field sprint behind for 13th. The result capped off arguably the most exciting season opener in the team’s history. Hosking’s fifth place in the overall acted as a warning shot for the world’s top sprinters as she proved to be the one to beat when the road flattens out.
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