• Michael Woods mastered the gravel to win Stage 2 of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour. (Con Chronis)Source: Con Chronis
Gravel sections, crosswinds, steep gradients and a technical descent saw the cream rise to the top at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour as Richie Porte and Michael Woods duelled to the line in Churchill with the American taking the stage.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
1 Feb 2019 - 8:53 AM  UPDATED 1 Feb 2019 - 8:54 AM

Coming off Porte's wheel,  Woods (EF Education First) was able to get the jump on the pre-race favourite and Trek-Segafredo leader heading into the finish, holding off his rival for the win through the finish line.

“The winning move for me today was waiting for the low rise with 300 metres to go,” said Woods. “I knew if I hit that with momentum I could take down Richie.

Woods came into the race with a bit of knowledge of what was to come after conducting some pre-race scouting of the final climb with its steep pinches and gravel sections.

“Tom Southam and I, we decided to do a quick recon of it on Monday,” said Woods, “so we did the hour and a half drive. I knew that gravel section would be important to know so we reconned it and it made a big difference on that course.

“This was a really cool stage finish and I was really happy with it.”

Woods was alert when Team Sky came to the front of the race and tried to force gaps in the crosswinds heading into the foot of the climb.

“Sky lit it up on the left side,” said Woods, “I saw Luke Rowe just going full biscuit. Since we had Dan in yellow, the team just rode incredibly.

“Dan McLay did a great job keeping me protected when he was in yellow, which was really cool. No one is going to push you around when Dan’s in yellow.”

Woods crested the climb with an advantage on Porte, and kept pushing down the technical descent, but said he didn’t want to press too hard to drop the Tasmanian before the finish.

“I figured he would (catch up with me) because he’s such a strong time-triallist and I didn’t want to gas myself trying to hold him off,” said Woods. “I just wanted to put him under some stress and see if he could take the descent nice and fast and see if he could get back on and he did because he’s such a strong rider.”

“I mean what a champion. Six times winning up Willunga. He was the man to beat on that last stage in Willunga and he blew me up. For me to get a win over him today, it’s just like… I feel really special and it was a really good day for me.”

Woods was clearly happy after the race, but had his eyes firmly set on converting the stage win in a general classification victory.

“I think this bodes well for the team,” said Woods. “We came in with the goal of winning the race and winning some stages. We’ve already checked the stage wins off the list, now it’s time for GC.”

Sky's Kenny Elissonde led home the chase group, which also contained team mate Dylan van Baarle and Lucas Hamilton (Mitchelton-Scott). The rest of the field limped home, with the general classification seemingly to be decided by those few riders up the top of the current standings. 

How the stage unfolded 

The early break of six riders was established after 15 kilometres of initial skirmishing, with Liam White (Drapac-Cannondale), Ayden Toovey (Team Bridgelane), Cyrus Monk, Shane Archbold (both EvoPro Racing), Karl Michelin-Beard (Oliver’s Real Food Racing) and Tom Coates (Futuro-Maxxis) going up the road.

Toovey hoovered up the sprint bonuses for the second day in a row, while Monk was the strongest over the climbs, claiming the King of the Mountains (KOM) points over the first KOM climb of the day.

The peloton kept the break well in check for the day’s action, with the maximum advantage never stretching beyond three minutes.

Over the top of the first categorised climb, the front group began to falter, with just the trio of White, Toovey and Monk left off the front of the race. The peloton made quick work of bringing them back, accomplishing the task with 35 kilometres left to race.

Around that point, a crash occurred midway through the peloton, with a number of riders brought down and more held up.

With 25 kilometres to go, Team Sky went to the front of the race after a right-hand turn which exposed the riders to a gusty crosswind. The WorldTour squad quickly reduced the numbers at the front of the race to a select few, with several GC contenders left staring at the back of a front group rapidly leaving them behind.

Soon after turning off the main road onto the Jeeralang climb, the first attack went off the front with Pavel Sivakov, Kenny Elissonde (both Team Sky) and Chris Harper (Bridgelane) going clear.

Mitchelton-Scott led the chase to keep the escapees close, but it was Woods who launched the first big attack with just over 13 kilometres remaining in the race with Porte in pursuit.