The first stage started out real aggressive, and immediately a 16man group preyed open an advantage that would be impossible for scrambling teams and riders to close. I found myself in that move. The danger men in the was young Austalian, Jack Bobridge and fastman Mitchell Docker. Also a lesser known rider by the name of Nathan Haas got into the move, along with 1 other teammate.
Jack Bobridge showed his strength as he solo’d away 50km out. This cause the break to split into pieces. About 25km to go me and 4 others caught up to the maniac. I seemed to be have been a little affected by Jetlag and took a backseat in the move, as I struggled to hold on. Rhys Pollock of Drapac Porsche made the winning move 6km out and held a small 15s advantage all the way to the line. I managed to stay in contact just about as I lost a crucial 7s, that will come back to haunt me later.
Broken I was after the stage, but somehow, I had a good night’s rest, and felt better than ever on the bike. On each climb I felt comfortable, while I noticed Jack Bobridge struggling after his solo escapade the previous day. My good legs delivered me the stage win ahead of formidable sprinter Baden Cooke.
The last km kicked up to about 6% for a while before gradually leveling down to 2-3% in the final 200m. “A perfect finish for me” was my thoughts all day. Dennis van Niekerk did an excellent job of getting me out of traffic from quite far back and delivered me with 250m to go. Coming from so far back I knew when passed Cooke that I got a gap and just had to maintain it to the finish.
It was quite a feeling of shock as I won. I knew it was possible, but to actually pull it off was unbelievable.
The following day we had Dylan Girdlestone in the long break, which was caught in the last 10 kilometres and the bunch sprint was won by German, Marcel Kittel.
Finally the 4th stage was the queen stage of the tour, where would climb Arthur’s seat 3 times. A 3.2km climb at avg gradient of 8%. I knew this would be the stage were the tour will be won and lost. Towards the end of the race we ascended Arthur’s seat for the 2nd time. The race split into pieces, but regrouped as we reached to foot of the hill for the last time. My legs felt pretty good and I felt that I was in with a chance as Nathan Haas and Jack Bobridge seemed mark each other. Halfway up there was few riders left in the front, as the yellow jersey lost contact as well. Matthey Llyod was responsible for the damage as he tried his chance to win the stage. As soon as he sat up, Jack Bobridge and Nathan Haas stalled and I decided to take my chance. Haas quickly shut me down though. Cameron Meyer of Garmin-Cervelo immediately continue to keep the pace. I found a small gap opening in front of me as I couldn’t keep up with the pace. In the final hundred metres Jonas Jorgenson, who was 3rd on GC, caught up to me…which mean’t that I would sit in 4th. Our group finish about 20s behind Haas’s group. As Haas managed to outsprint Bobridge for 2nd and take away the bonus seconds, which would move him up to 1st.
During the final stage the goal was to make up 4s to Jonas Jorgenson so I could move up to 3rd. With 2 sprint primes carrying a maximum 6s bonus I knew it was possible. The first sprint I won quite comfortably as Jonas managed to get 1s for 3rd. “Still 2s behind 3rd”. A small breakaway got away, but we needed it to be back together before the final sprint. The team did an excellent job in bringing the break back, as I sprinted pass them to take it out again, but Jonas got 2nd this time. “only 1s still off”. I had to score a top 3 in the stage to take over 3rd place on GC and the way I was sprinting I knew it was possible. I came desperately close, but I timed my run a tad late and rolled in 5th. Quite disappointing to miss a podium like that, but as consolation I was awarded the most aggressive jersey.
I enjoyed Australia very much, the people, the atmosphere, the scenery, the weather and the racing. I hope to be back soon. We were off to China straight after. More to follow on that.