Rushlee Buchanan provided the highlight for New Zealand on the final day of the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under. The multiple national road, time trial and criterium champion finished third in the flat, fast and furious stage.
The final 42.5km stage took the field around a small, technical circuit in downtown Adelaide. There was still plenty to fight for in the overall standings with a matter of seconds between the top riders. Ruth Winder had the leader’s jersey with a 7 second buffer to Team Sunweb’s Liane Lippert and Mitchelton-SCOTT’s Amanda Spratt. That gap narrowed at the first sprint of the day where Liane Lippert and teammate Leah Kirchmann took first and second places ahead of Winder.
Winder played a good defensive game, however, taking third again in the second sprint behind teammate Lotta Henttala and Spratt; keeping hold of her lead and showing that she would not relinquish her lead willingly.
It was a breakaway move with 15 laps covered that saw Rushlee Buchanan hone into view as a contender for the day. Ten riders were in the move including Lauren Stephens of TIBCO-SVB, Jaime Gunning of Specialized Women’s Racing, Georgia Williams of Mitchelton-SCOTT and Brodie Chapman of FDJNouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope. The group were able to make good their advantage and stretch their lead out over the peloton until with 4 laps to go Buchanan went on the offensive.
The Waikato rider took off alone and made a brave bid for the win, but steadily the rest of the breakaway pegged the Kiwi back and with the bell lap sounding Buchanan was caught.
It came down to a sprint finish in the end, and a lead out from Georgia Williams eventually saw Simona Frapporti take the win with a powerful finishing kick. On the far left hand side of the road Buchanan sprinted in the saddle with a crafty and unsuspecting last ditch effort that saw her grab the last spot on the podium for the stage behind Frapporti and Stephens.
Overall Ruth Winder did enough to hold on to the win ahead of Liane Lippert and Amanda Spratt, with Ella Harris finishing the highest placed of the Kiwis in 13th place, 38 seconds off the lead. Jenna Merrick finished 18th overall at 44 seconds, with Buchanan 23rd at 48 seconds.