The fireworks started when Kennaugh and Froome caught the peloton unawares, attacking on the final Mt St Leonard KOM climb. Navigating the descent and tricky roads towards the finish, their lead pushed out to 25 seconds.
Despite valiant attempts by Ben Dyball (Australian National Team), Damien Howson (Orica-GreenEDGE), and Jonathan Clarke (United Healthcare) who regrouped with Froome and Kennaugh at nine kilometres to go, the Sky duo attacked again in the last five kilometres, crossing the line 1-2 at the end of the 126km Healesville loop stage.
Watch: Froome aids Kennaugh to Jayco Herald Sun Tour Stage 1 victory. https://t.co/N59fwTqziH
— CyclingCentral (@CyclingCentral) February 4, 2016
Kennaugh was quick to thank Froome and his team-mates after the stage.
"We had a good plan going in to today's stage, it's worked out absolutely perfectly. Just to make it hard going into that last climb and Froome was to have a go and I was to follow wheels, and judge the situation and jump across," he said.
"Massive thanks to the team and Froome, I pretty much sat on his wheel the whole way on the climb and once we got over, I took some good turns and we took it to the finish.
"The guys did a fantastic job setting it up. They made it as hard as possible on the early slopes and then I took over and it's a really nice feeling to be able to give something back to Peter Kennaugh, I mean the number of times he's emptied himself for me out on the road, it's nice to be able to do something for him," - Chris Froome.
At the start of proceedings, a breakaway group of six formed quickly and included Kristian House (ONE), Giacamo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Nicholas Katsonis (State of Matter/MAAP), Alistair Slater (JLT), Craig Evers (Data #3) and Hill (Attaque Team Gusto). Their lead grew to as much as four minutes.
— Jayco HeraldSun Tour (@HeraldSunTour) February 4, 2016
Meanwhile, back in the bunch, Drapac and Sky took control and the break was caught at 30km to go.
There was bad news for under 23 road national championships runner-up Lucas Hamilton (Australian National Team) who abandoned the race following a nasty crash on the descent from the Lala KOM.
Kennaugh now wears the yellow jersey leading Froome by seven seconds, with Dion Smith (ONE Pro) third at 23 seconds.