Stage 1 of the women’s race in Tyalgum was animated by a solo move from Kate Perry (Specialized Women’s Racing) following an initial attack and finding herself alone off the front of the peloton. The route contained only a handful of harder climbs, and the field stayed mostly together behind the escaped rider.
As a winner of a number of NRS tours and stages, the teams of the sprinters knew they had to work smartly to bring Perry back, managing to do so with three kilometres left.
Alexandra Martin-Wallace showed her European form was no flash in the pan, taking out the stage win at the head of an impressive 1-2 for Pro Racing Sunshine Coast with team-mate Sophie Edwards. Herfoss finished third as Raynolds pulled on the leader’s jersey after dominating the sprint points out on course.
Stage 2 was a tough affair, a 78km stage that contained steep climbs and sections of flat with some gusty wind to put the peloton into difficulties. A late break of four decided the stage, with Jenelle Crooks triumphing in the sprint to the line after a strong quartet had escaped upon the gravel climb and technical section within the final 15km.
It was something of a comeback for Crooks, of WorldTour-fame with Mitchelton-Scott, who had seen thyroid problems curtail her career in the top echelon of the sport and saw her stay out of racing for the majority of the past two seasons.
“I’m having a lot of fun actually and I think that’s the key to it at the moment for me. Putting the number on, just with the aim of having a good time and enjoying it rather than all the pressure I had on me before, it’s nice.”
“I wasn’t sure how my form would be as I’ve been concentrating a bit on uni but it was good and I’m happy with it.”
Herfoss moved into the race lead with her second podium place finish of the race, though the race was impossibly close at the top, with the top five riders separated by just five seconds on the general classification.
Herfoss took a narrow win in the Stage 3 time trial punching her way through the wind on the run back to the finish and taking victory in the stage by six seconds over Kate Perry and Jaime Gunning (both Specialized Women’s Racing).
In the Tweed Valley even the industrial zones offer panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges and countryside and the area provided a picturesque backdrop for a fast final criterium.
In a repeat of Stage 1, Martin-Wallace was again the fastest in the final bunch sprint, emerging from the first few wheels to round the Specialized Women’s Racing train and take the win ahead of Raynolds and Gunning.
“I was a few wheels back,” said Martin-Wallace, “but I felt really comfortable round that last corner and I was really happy to get the win. [It was a] great setup by the team.”
Martin-Wallace has been on a month-long trip with the Cycling Australia high performance stream in Belgium, with some of the highest potential riders given a taste of a different style of racing in the fast and dirty style of Belgian flat racing.
“We just spent a month over in Belgium doing kermesse races and it’s definitely helped our sprint and bunch racing,” said Martin-Wallace. “Coming here we really wanted to put everything into action.”
A solid performance in the time trial confirmed the overall victory for Herfoss, she navigated the fast and flowing course with the assistance of her Roxsolt-Attaquer team-mates and duly took the overall victory.
“It was a great Tour, great to be so close to home,” said Herfoss after the race. “I know a lot of the roads around here which was a bit of an advantage. It was great competition this weekend, all the girls gave it a really hard crack and it’s come down to less than ten seconds at the finish. It was close racing.”
“I was just making sure that Jaime (Gunning) wasn’t up there taking too many seconds. I think she was second at the finish actually, second or third, so that narrowed the gap down a bit, but I managed to maintain my lead.”
Herfoss also continues to hold the overall National Road Series lead after winning the opening round of competition at the Tour de Brisbane. Just days after Herfoss’ (nee Roper) marriage to new husband and fellow rider Troy Herfoss, it was no struggle for the 25-year-old to produce a top-notch performance to take the win in what is the Gold Coast local’s home race.
Some of the best racing of the season around the picturesque Tweed Valley produced a memorable edition of the Tour de Tweed, with Ryan Thomas (Drapac Holistic Development Team) taking the win after being one of the most aggressive riders the whole race.
What seemed like an intermediate stage from the course profile proved to be far from straightforward for the men’s peloton on the opening 127km stage in Tyalgum, with big splits occurring in the field and transforming the early breakaway into the defining move of the race.
As riders peeled off the front of the peloton the initial move swelled until a large group including National Road Series leader Jarrad Drizners (Inform TM Insight MAKE) forged its way across to the front and quickly put masses of time into a disorganized peloton.
An attack from three riders over the final climb of the day looked doomed to be chased down, but the trio of Angus Lyons (Oliver’s Real Food Racing), Sam Hill (Nero-Bianchi) and Thomas worked well together and were aided by a lacklustre chase with Team BridgeLane refusing to commit their riders to a chase that might aid their closest foes for the NRS team rankings, Inform TM Insight MAKE.
It was Lyons that was the strongest in the final sprint for the line, out-kicking Thomas and Hill to the line and tacking on the leader’s jersey in the process. Lyons had been the bridesmaid with two second-place finishes in stages of the Tour of the Tropics, and has spent much of his career to date working for other riders, but grabbed the chance to shine with the stage win.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Lyons. “It’s my first NRS win and for it to be in a sprint – all be it between three people who were on their hands and knees – it was a nice way to do it.”
“The BridgeLane guys came up to me and said, ‘we’re not going to chase anything, we’re just watching the Inform guys. At that point, Sam (Hill) went off the front, so I had a crack thinking ‘why not’ and we were joined by number three (Thomas) not long after it.”
“I wasn’t a hundred per cent confident in the sprint, but I’ve been working on it for the past few years and it was good to pull it off.”
Stage 2 was a memorable one, with the picturesque countryside of the Tweed Valley playing second fiddle to the superb show out on the roads. Tough climbs and a 140km course – long by NRS standards – deterred too much early attacking, but a few skirmishes off the front created pain at the back of the field and many were dropped just trying to hold on at the back of the peloton.
Oliver’s took on the task of defending Lyon’s leader jersey but as the riders finished a second lap of three of a challenging loop an attack of Sam Volkers and Thomas gained some traction with Jay Vine (Nero-Bianchi) next to set off in pursuit with Jason Thomason (Van D’am p/b Butterfields).
Vine had already tried his own solo move earlier in the stage but found enough energy to drop Thomason and just make it over to the leading duo.
An attack that hadn’t seemed too threatening for the stage became more serious as Oliver’s riders began dropping from the front of the peloton, with Lyons unable to fend off the attacks from the peloton once they started on the final ascent of the steep climbs and gravelled sections.
A chasing group of seven wasn’t able to bridge over to the leading trio in the final kilometres, and the three riders fought it out for the win after 40km of being off the front of the race. Thomas took out the sprint with Volkers in second and a spent Vine finishing five seconds back.
Thomas moved into a relatively comfortable lead of the race with the win, holding a 34-second buffer over second-placed Hill with just the 10km time trial and criterium remaining.
Drizners confirmed himself as one of the most powerful riders in the Australian peloton with his performance in the time-trial, blitzing a windswept course with a brutal headwind finish to take the stage win. Six seconds was his advantage at the finish over Vine and team-mate Rudy Porter.
Thomas was ninth and still had over half a minute lead in hand for the final stage criterium. A wide flat course with fast lines for turning saw a relatively contained final race of the tour with a furious sprint to end proceedings. Inform TM Insight MAKE had spent a number of the final laps working the front of the peloton hard to get Drizners in a position to sprint, but in the final few hundred metres it was Drapac Holistic Development Team that hit the front with youngster Jensen Plowright, with the dual track and road talent holding off Matt Rice (Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) and Tristan Ward (Team BridgeLane).
“It’s a super aggressive race, it’s always been won from the front and never really been close in time gaps really. It actually worked out really well being off the front two days in a row and then today racing aggressively to get Jensen the stage win and it worked.”
“I knew from the first training camp that we had a good group, all the guys gelled together really well and we had a good bonding experience. It’s a pity Drapac isn’t going ahead next year but it’s a good way to celebrate with such a good group of guys and a tribute to the reputation of Drapac.