• Diesels and dust as the Jayco Herald Sun Tour peloton thunders through the gravel. (Con Chronis)Source: Con Chronis
The strangest feature of Stage 2 of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour was the late decision by the commissaries to neutralise a section of the race.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
2 Feb 2018 - 6:34 PM  UPDATED 2 Feb 2018 - 6:36 PM

An unusual scene ensued, with riders milling around off their bikes mid-race, chatting to their team directors, eating and drinking.

An eleventh-hour course change had forced the race off onto a side road - no more than a typical country dirt road.

The course change was prompted by a portion of the originally planned route being torn up by road maintenance workers.

Race director John Trevorrow indicated that he first knew about the issue on Friday and he personally went out to check the diversion the day before it was to be raced on.

He also said that road authorities had assured him that the gravel/dirt roads would be rolled before the peloton went over them, but that had clearly not happened as the riders approached the 7.6km diversion.

With the planned route obscured by machinery and no surface to race on, the main bunch of riders had to take the only available diversion.

Loose dirt and rocks littered the road surface, with the stones threatening punctures and soft patches of dirt causing wheels to lose traction and wash out.

The call of neutralisation either came very late or didn't reach some teams quickly, as a significant portion of the peloton hit the dirt hard, with a number of riders getting dropped and falling off the back of the main field.

Soon after the pace slowed and eventually stopped entirely as the bunch reached the end of the sector.

The breakaway was reinstalled at the three minute twenty-five second they had brought into the dirt section, while the peloton massed at their team cars for a feed and a team meeting while the group of seven escapees re-established their advantage.

One of those leading the charge onto the dirt was yellow jersey wearer Lasse Norman Hansen (Aqua Blue Sport), who would have preferred the opportunity to race over the tricky section.

"The gravel was fine," Hansen said. "We had the front and we had split it before they told us it was neutralised. I would have enjoyed racing full gas from there to the finish, so I'm really sad they neutralised it."

Hansen showed his frustration during the impromptu stop, remonstrating while the race was halted.

"I was super gutted," he said. "We had the front as a team, we had Trek [Segafredo] with us. If we raced from there, it would have been ten guys at the finish just like yesterday and I'm sure I would have been there.

"It wasn't dangerous. There were some soft patches, but as long as you straight-lined them it was fine. I imagine some of the guys hadn't ridden road bikes on dirt before, we do it a lot in Denmark."

The peloton was quickly split into a number of groups on the early kilometres of the dirt, but the neutralisation brought the it back together, the same as when it had entered the troublesome sector.

Hansen was asked if the commissaire's decision had the potential to affect the general classification.

"Yeah definitely," he said. "Both [Esteban] Chaves and Cameron Meyer (of Mitchelton-Scott) were way out the arse of the group. I'm sure we would have eliminated some GC guys and it would have made tomorrow a bit more entertaining."

Chief Commissaire Greg Griffiths explained the decision to halt the race as one of sporting necessity.

"I doubt there are many riders who will complain about it," Griffiths said. "I know Roompot [Team Roompot-NL Loterij] had four guys up there so maybe they will say something. It was a fair, sporting thing to do. The race would have been decided by the condition of the road rather than the condition of the riders."

Pedersen pockets a Herald Sun Tour win on Stage 2
Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) won the bunch sprint to take Stage 2 of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour as Lasse Norman Hansen (Aqua Blue Sport) retained the overall lead.