Sharlotte Lucas and Kate McIlroy led the Kiwi charge at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race with strong performances that saw them take 7th and 8th respectively at the end of the 113.3km of racing. Chloe Hosking of Alé Cipollini took the win ahead of Gracie Elvin of Mitchelton-Scott and Giorgia Bronzini of Cylance Pro Cycling.
Geelong to Torquay was the route for the 2018 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race with 113.3km of racing to tackle for the 15 teams and 81 riders who made up this year’s race. New Zealand had a number of riders taking on the course including Georgia Williams of Mitchelton-Scott, Linda Villumsen of Team Virtu Cycling Women, Specialized Women’s Racing’s Kate McIlroy and Sharlotte Lucas and the New Zealand National Team of Mikayla Harvey, Lydia Rippon, Ella Harris, Rylee McMullen, Kate Smith and best young rider at the Santos Women’s Tour, Grace Anderson.
The early stages of the race were dictated by a two-up breakaway effort from Georgia Whitehouse of Sydney Uni-Staminade and Lisa Morzenti of BePink. The pair stayed out front for a good chunk of the race, with the pair gaining a maximum of 3 minutes advantage. At 42km to go the gap sat at 1.22mins. Specialized Women’s Racing had formed at the front of the race and looked to line up McIlroy and Lucas for success later on in the race.
Mitchelton-Scott were not far from the front, but for now the peloton weren’t interested in pegging back the move just yet. The break’s lead was allowed to stretch upwards of 2 minutes, but Team Virtu Cycling Women also began to marshal their riders towards the front.
Up the road the leaders were allowed to hovery at the 1.30min point for a good chunk of the race but shortly after the 30km to go mark the impetus was completely lost from the break and both Whitehouse and Morzenti dropped back to the bunch which was all together with a good chunk of racing still to take on.
From here Mitchelton-Scott proceeded to take the race by the scruff of the neck and Georgia Williams, in her New Zealand National Champion’s jersey was right there in the mix. Alé Cipollini were also challenging right on the front of the peloton as the riders neared 20km to go.
A couple of attacks did attempt to establish in the latter stages of the race but with Mitchelton-Scott on the front of the race breakaways were kept on a tight leash. Heading towards the 10km to go point the speed was very high, and with 11.4km to go the riders reached the final key climb of the race. The Australian National Team hit the front of the race and drilled the pack, with Katrin Garfoot – one of the pre-race favourites – drilling the rest of the field from the front. An attack from Sabrina Stultiens of WaowDeals Pro Cycling really tested the legs though and saw Molly Weaver of Trek-Drops bridge across with Garfoot initially trailing. At the summit of the climb though Garfoot had managed to get across to the leaders and with Stultiens and Annemiek van Vleuten of Mitchelton-Scott the trio enjoyed a little daylight.
The leaders continued on to 5km to go but Stultiens wasn’t done yet. The Dutch rider attacked again and managed to gap Garfoot and van Vleuten. Stultiens led through 4km to go with about 11 seconds in hand. Behind them all the peloton managed to catch Garfoot and van Vleuten, but they still had 12 seconds to make up at 2.5km. Rapidly though the peloton were closing down on the solo leader, with Amanda Spratt leading the chase which was now sitting at about 23 in number.
At this point Sharlotte Lucas was sitting right at the back of that group that were clawing back the leader, with the catch being made with 1.4km left to race. Lucas had a lot of work to do, as did McIlroy, to get into position as the jostling began to get in position for the sprint.
Mitchelton-Scott led the way but Alé Cipollini were ready to strike. The sprint finally launched and from a little way out Chloe Hosking struck for home. She’d timed her effort perfectly though and the Australian powered away to the win ahead of Gracie Elvin and Girogia Bronzini.
Sharlotte Lucas and Kate McIlroy crossed the line 7th and 8th respectively, with Linda Villumsen crossing the line 20th in the same bunch as Hosking and co. 1.13mins back Grace Anderson crossed the line in 26th alongside Lydia Rippon, Georgia Williams and Ella Harris.