Time bonuses awarded in Stirling enabled American national champion Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) to sprint to victory and take over from Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-SCOTT) in the lead of the overall classification of the Santos Down Under.
With runner up Liane Lippert (Team Sunweb) second with only seven seconds deficit, like Spratt, a thrilling finale is expected in Adelaide on Sunday.
“My team-mate Tayler Wiles just helped me perfectly”, Winder reacted. “I was just talking to her the whole time. We’ve been team-mates for years. Every time I feel so grateful to her. The whole team was very active at the front, covering moves and keeping me safe when Mitchelton-SCOTT was pacing on the climb.”
The start of Subaru Stage 3 was given at 10:03. Swiss rider Nicole Hanselmann (Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport) was first to find her way out of the pack. Anna Henderson (Team Sunweb), Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon SRAM Racing), Maëlle Grossetête (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope) came across and passed the line of the first intermediate sprint (km 22.8) in that order, along with Simona Frapporti (BePink) to make it a group of five, but the peloton reacted.
Six other riders took off at kilometre 30: Tanja Erath (Canyon SRAM Racing), Lotta Henttala (Trek-Segafredo), Anna Trevisi (Alé BTC Ljubljana), Heidi Franz (Rally Cycling), Josie Talbot (Uni-SA Australia) and Matilda Raynolds (Specialized Women’s Racing). They got a gap of 1’30’’ at kilometre 35 but Mitchelton-SCOTT brought them back.
In the last ten kilometres, Leigh-Ann Ganzar (Rally Cycling) cruised alone at the front but she got reeled in with 2 kilometres to go. Winder timed her effort really well in the spectacular uphill finish to Stirling to beat Lippert and – more surprisingly – Spratt who was the hot favourite for a fourth consecutive overall title.
“Yesterday I went too early but today it was a different sprint because the group was way bigger”, Lippert explained.
“At 500 metres to go, I thought something must happen now. At 200 metres to go, Leah Kirchmann my team-mate attacked to make me space. It was really good. I could open up and find my way on the right side. I had come around a lot of riders but I had a punchy good speed. I came really close to Ruth but I couldn’t pass her. I’m happy about the shape. We have a really strong team. We’ve showed today we have the most numbers. We want to play our cards tomorrow and play for the overall win.”
“Tomorrow it’s a criterium-style race with nineteen seconds on the road of bonus sprints so we’ll see how that goes”, Winder echoed.
“We also have Lotta Henttala who came second on Ziptrak Stage 1 and we’ll probably see if we can get her on the podium again. For the GC, we have a very strong team. I have full confidence in them. I won in a sprint today so my sprint must not be too bad. Tomorrow’s finish is pretty flat so it’ll be a different kind of sprint.”