Australia’s Chloe Hosking delivered her first victory for the US-based team Rally Cycling she just joined as she outsprinted Lotta Henttala (Trek-Segafredo), Matilda Raynolds (Specialized Women’s Racing) and the rest of the bunch to claim Ziptrak Stage 1 and the overall lead of the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under in Macclesfield.
“It’s amazing! I’m just so proud of the girls,” Hosking said on the finish line. “We were committed to a sprint for me. It’s our first race all together but you wouldn’t know it on the road. They were always there. When there were troubles in the winds they were all rolling and they did exactly what we planned, which is keep the speed high and keep me out of trouble, and if I didn’t have enough of them left at the finish, I was going to surf wheels.”
The first intermediate sprint at kilometre 8 was approached with determination by many GC contenders just a few minutes after the start proper was given to 94 riders at 10:07. Gracie Elvin (Mitchelton-Scott) outsprinted Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb) and Henttala, after which Marieke Van Witzenburg (Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport) rode away solo.
The Dutch rider earnt a 2-minute gap for herself after 20km of racing. Specialized Women’s Racing brought the gap down to 25’’ at kilometre 30 before giving her a one-minute lead again. Therefore, Van Witzenburg secured the Subaru Queen of the Mountain jersey as she crossed the top of Knotts Hill-Kuitpo, the only categorised climb of the day, before Bree Wilson (Roxsolt Attaquer), Ursa Pintar (Alé BTC Ljubljana), Justine Barrow (Roxsolt Attaquer) and Ella Harris (Canyon SRAM Racing).
“It wasn’t the plan to go solo but it was the plan to attack after the first sprint,” Van Witzenburg said. “I was doubting myself a little bit but my teammates said I could go at that point, so I went. I didn’t know how long I would stay away but I was very much hoping to stay away until the QOM. I’m so happy that I made it. It was a big goal of mine to get the jersey once and I’m going to try to defend it.”
It was all together again after 60 kilometres of racing. Anastasiia Chursina (Alé BTC Ljubljana), Jenelle Crooks (Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank) and Silvia Valsecchi (BePink) tried their luck but got no freedom as the second intermediate sprint was looming at kilometre 69. It was won by Kirchmann ahead of Chursina and Chloe Hosking (Rally). Swiss rider Nicole Hanselmann (Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport) launched an attack at kilometre 75. Brodie Chapman (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope) re-joined her and eventually continued solo, going into the last 20km with an advantage of two minutes. The Australian still had one minute lead with 10km to go. Her solo adventure came to an end within 3km before the finish.
“It’s exciting racing,” Chapman declared. “It would have been fun to watch. That’s what it’s all about. I went away just by feeling. I thought Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport would ride with their aggressive style of racing. Everyone thought it would be a bunch sprint but that doesn’t mean you have to sit around for 100km. We rode together for a while and that was fun. Alone, I gave everything I had left and I can’t control the peloton alone with my legs, so I was just trying to have a good time and trying to take it all the way to the line but the peloton was very keen on a bunch sprint.”
Hosking said: “We committed to a plan and executed it. It was such a fast run in, I didn’t want to be too far back. I was just jumping trains and my girls did a great job to get me up to the quite technical section at about 2km to go.”
“I had a tough time in the middle of last year and it was a real struggle to find a contract. Rally Cycling took a chance on me. I’m the first non-North American they’ve had in a long time, so I’m really happy to give them back a UCI win already. It’s really promising. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year.”