Our Australian summer came to a close with the Cadel Evan Great Ocean Road Race in Geelong on Sunday. The one-day Australian classic was upgraded to a WorldTour race for 2017 and attracted a deep field that included Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky), 2016 Il Lombardia winner Estaban Chaves (ORICA-SCOTT) and 2017 Tour Down Under winner Richie Porte (BMC).
What Cannondale-Drapac lacked in stand-out star power, it made up for in options for every scenario that might eventuate.
“I think it’s important to have options on a course like Cadel’s because you’re not really sure what’s going to happen,” said Brendan Canty, who made his delayed WorldTour debut in Geelong. “It was a good feeling to line up with multiple cards to play. We knew we’d ultimately call it out on the road when we had a better sense of how the racing was going.”
A four-rider breakaway animated the early action. The quartet gained nearly 10 minutes before the peloton began to give chase. A larger than expected peloton, nearly all the race starters, reached the first passage of the finish line for the start of the first of three 20-kilometre laps around Geelong.
It was from this peloton that Mike Woods would make his move on the second lap. Following the breakaway’s catch, Sebastian Henao (Sky) attacked up the Challambra Climb. Woods was immediately on Henao’s wheel. Luke Durbridge (ORICA-SCOTT) and Rohan Denis (BMC) joined the leading duo following the QOM.
“Woodsy had really good legs out there today,” noted Canty.
The leading quartet lacked cooperation, so their time up the road was short-lived. A flurry of attacks followed the catch until a 24-rider front group emerged. Although attacks continued all the way to the line, the race ultimately ended in a reduced-brunch sprint.
“Woods and I both managed to be there in the finish,” said Canty. “Guys like Wilbur [Will Clarke] and Big Tommy [Tom Van Asbroeck], they looked after us and put us in good position, and then it was down to us. Unfortunately, Woods didn’t have the sprint he would have liked, and I didn’t really have legs to sprint myself. Overall it wasn’t a bad day, but we didn’t get the results we were after.”‘