New Zealander Tom Scully won his first race in #GreenArgyle on Sunday, when he took the final stage of La Route du Sud, giving Cannondale-Drapac its second victory in as many days. Pierre Rolland won the race’s queen stage on Saturday.
Scully, 27, rode for Drapac Professional Cycling Team last season and this is his first win in the WorldTour. He won the 154-kilometer tilt from Gers-Saint Michel to Nogaro with a mixture of craft and strength.
“I knew it would be hard for a team to chase in the heat, as it was really easy to go into the red in these conditions,” said Scully.
In a nail-biting cat-and-mouse game in the final kilometers of the race, Scully was one of five riders of the original nine-rider break that stayed in front of the peloton on the line.
While the nine-rider group was still intact underneath the flamme rouge, the peloton closed in on the group in the final meters to result in a bunch sprint-type of finish. Scully posted up on the line. Tom Van Asbroeck celebrated a little further back, taking twelfth.
Scully not only took control of the final, he also played an active part in setting up the breakaway.
“The early break went after about 15, 20 kilometers,” Scully said. “It was a hot, dry, blue-sky day. Will Clarke was strong, covering moves right from the start. I waited after it was really hard, then gave it a go on a slight drag up. A few followed and we kept the gas on for a bit and eventually we had a group of seven away, working nice together. Shortly after two more joined.”
With no one in the breakaway a threat for the general classification, the peloton let them have a maximum advantage of 2:40.
“We knew in hot weather, and with the bonus seconds being fought over between GC teams, that a breakaway had a chance to make it to the line,” said sports director Charly Wegelius. “Nine riders is a good sized group. That made it hard for the peloton to catch them back.”
The 154.8 kilometer stage ended on the auto-track Paul Armagnac, with the break in plain sight for the peloton to chase. The wide and twisty roads made the finishing kilometers of La Route du Sud a true spectacle.
“The group was working hard, but everyone was getting tired approaching the car racing track,” Scully said. “At three to go, the gap was down to 12 seconds.”
“I wasn’t particularly aiming for a stage win coming into this race, but it’s always on the cards when you can have the freedom to get in the breakaway,” Scully said. “So you just have to be ready.”
Ready he was. He felt confident he could finish it off if he ended up in a race-winning escape.
“I felt strong,” Scully said. “I’m happy with how the condition is after a big block of training following the Classics.”
Scully’s performance was inspired by Rolland’s victory the previous day.
“Pierre’s a great guy to race with. He led by example this week on a course that suited him,” Scully said. “Today I had my chance on terrain that suited me to do the same. The feeling in the team at La Route du Sud was a good atmosphere.
“Looking back on La Route du Sud overall, I loved it, even the big day yesterday over the Tourmalet,” Scully said. “For me, it was the first time racing in the big, big mountains, so it was pretty cool to do that.”
“It’s great seeing a kid that was on our development team all those years ago, and then come to us via Drapac, make good on his talent and racing instinct,” Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “Scully had a brief stint with the team in 2012, then called Garmin-Sharp, when he joined the team as a trainee from August to the end of the year.
Cannondale-Drapac walks away from the south of France with two stage wins and a top ten overall, with Rigoberto Uran in eighth.
Images supplied by: Route du Sud – la Dépêche du Midi