• Fast and dirty racing at the Tour of King Valley (Cycling Australia)Source: Cycling Australia
Jessica Pratt (Sydney Uni Staminade) and Jarrad Drizners (Inform TM Insight MAKE) took out the out the women's and men's two-stage Tour of King Valley, respectively, in tough racing over gravel roads.
By
SBS Cycling Central

14 Oct 2019 - 12:10 PM 

The opening stage was around the Winton Racing Circuit with both pelotons greeted by fine racing conditions around the three-kilometre course. 

The women's race saw a breakaway establish a race-winning lead with most of the favourites sitting behind in the peloton. Australian road race champion Sarah Gigante (Roxsolt Attaquer) was present and was the main driver when the peloton turned up the heat to bring back the move in the final kilometres. 

In the end, the break just held off the charging peloton for Ashlee Jones (Specialized Women's Racing) to take her maiden National Road Series victory ahead of Pratt and Gigante. With Pratt attentive to taking out the bonus seconds at the intermediate sprints out on course, the Queenslander moved into the race lead by a single second from Jones.

The men's race saw a fair bit of aggression, but ultimately the race was contained until the final sprint, with a long Team Bridgelane train setting up the final kilometres for their sprinter Tristan Ward. A late surge from Raphael Freienstein (Inform TM Insight MAKE) with team-mate Drizners in his wheel kicked off the sprint in earnest.

With riders spread out across the road, it was Matthew Rice (Pro Racing Sunshine Coast who emerged along the near side of the final bend to take the win ahead of Myles Stewart (Rauland) and Jensen Plowright (Drapac Holistic Development). Rice capitalised on good 2019 form that propelled him to several wins in the US.

The fast Aussie sprinter also took the race lead, with Drizners equal on time after battling for the intermediate sprints.

Stage 2 promised to be one of the hardest courses in recent memory, with multiple ascents of the infamous Strade Nero climb that the race has become infamous for featuring. Add in several long, dirt-road sections and open areas where the wind comes into play and the difficulty of the route is compounded.

A late course change saw the 4th gravel sector removed but the distance increased to 130km for the women.

The race saw the main bunch break up dramatically on the gravel climb of the Strade Nero, with a group of eleven forming the move that would fight it out for the race win. The run into the finish at the Sam Miranda Winery was punctuated by the occasional attack but was ignited by Justine Barrow (Roxsolt Attaquer) with the 40-year-old showing the rest how it's done as she held off the chasers into the finish with a winning margin of three seconds.

Matilda Raynolds (Specialized Women's Racing) led the charge from behind, with Pratt in third. The chase was just enough for Pratt to maintain the GC lead, winning the overall by seven seconds from Raynolds, with Barrow in third just a further second adrift.

Emily Herfoss (Roxsolt Attaquer) retained her National Road Series lead with a fifth-place overall finish and she still holds a commanding lead in the standings heading into the Tour of Gippsland.

The men's race was scheduled for a near classics-length 188 kilometres, but the race was reduced to 168 kilometres as the peloton started in rainy conditions.

A dynamic start to the race saw the teams sparring tactically as groups went off the front and were brought back and then attacks were made to scoop up the bonus seconds available on the road.

A group of thirty made its way up the road before splintering into a group of seven, which became an elite pair of two with Sam Hill (Nero Bianchi) and Rylee Field (GPM Stulz) in the breakaway over the top of the Strade Nero. The pair made good headway before Field punctured, leaving Hill to battle on alone for a while before being caught by a group of nine riders, including Drizners and team-mate O'Brien with a strong selection of riders from other teams present.

A chasing peloton dragged the attack's advantage back from just under a minute to 14 seconds lead with 16 kilometres still to race, but that was as close as the chasing group got, and the race was decided by the front group, with Drizners first through the final corner and easily taking out the sprint from Conor Murtagh (Oliver's Real Food Racing) and Sam Hill (Nero Bianchi).

Drizners took out the overall race win with the performance, grabbing the win by 24 seconds from Hill with Murtagh one second further back in third. 

Drizners extended his lead in the National Road Series overall with the Tour of King Valley victory win and will be the hot favourite to take out the title.