• Howsat! But can Damien Howson hold on till Sunday? (Orica-Scott)Source: Orica-Scott
When they tell you you're nuthin' and can't beat the best, that's when you need to hold the dream, writes Anthony Tan.
Cycling Central
2 Feb 2017 - 7:09 PM  UPDATED 3 Feb 2017 - 9:38 AM

Hold the dream.

Thursday at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, the KordaMentha Real Estate Australian National Team chose to defy the odds in search of a dream.

The Tour de France champ and his team made a mockery of everyone at last year's race; they were determined not to let it happen again.

"That the two strongest teams are spending so much time and energy focusing on each other, it leaves the door open for an upset."

The way BMC Racing and Orica-Scott bossed the rest at the Tour Down Under, it could have been the same story at the Herald Sun Tour, only this time it would be the latter and Team Sky.

Hold the dream.

Even before a pedal was turned, all the talk was about Froome versus Chaves. Team Sky vs Orica-Scott. The inclusion of today's gruellingly long climb to Falls Creek, on paper at least, appeared to tip the scales even further in their favour.

Two of KordaMentha's men, Nathan Earle and Cameron Meyer, last year lost the dream. Not the typical riders you'd find in the composite national team, having rediscovered their drive and focus, and in career-best form, the Sun Tour could be - certainly after today, can be for one - their most important race meet of the year.

Hold the dream.

Following the 174.2 kilometre journey from Wangaratta to Falls Creek via Tawonga Gap, won by Orica-Scott's Damien Howson, the KordaMentha squad now boast five riders in the top 10 on GC. Howson, the 2013 Under-23 world time trial champion, is a beast, who came of age at last year's Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a EspaƱa, riding for the very man he was down to work for here in Victoria, Esteban Chaves.

Third overall last year behind Froome and Peter Kennaugh, Howson, the new race leader by 38 seconds from KordaMentha's 20-year-old young-gun Jai Hindley, no doubt would love to go one - or two - better. While the potential is clearly there, he has not been groomed by Orica-Scott to be a stage-race leader (they already have three!), so over the coming days, it will be interesting to see who they back.

Howson rides away from the Herald Sun Tour big guns
Damien Howson is a man who usually finishes a mountain stage wrecked after helping his leader to the spoils but on Stage 2 of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour is was his day to shine.

Same goes for Kenny Elissonde, the Frenchman who transferred from FDJ to Team Sky at the end of last year. Chaves, ninth on GC, is 1'15 behind Howson; Froome, fifth on GC, 19 seconds behind Elissonde.

Hold the dream.

The nature of the parcours, the depth of the field (a mixture of WorldTour and non-WorldTour teams invariably makes for a more interesting race), the size of the teams (limited to seven) and the size of the peloton (just 104 riders), the time of year, not to mention the GC as it stands, makes this year's Sun Tour a highly unpredictable affair. Both Friday and Sunday could easily turn the race on its head again.

"Team Sky are one of the world's strongest teams, so I guarantee they are going to throw everything they have (at us)," Howson said Thursday. "There's still a lot of tough stages to come, but I also have a very strong team behind me."

That the two strongest teams are spending so much time and energy focusing on each other, it leaves the door open for an upset.

KordaMentha National Team, hold the dream.