Dainese, Sierra take opening stage of Herald Sun Tour

Dainese takes debut WorldTour win, Sierra scoops sprint after crosswinds split the pack.

The Herald Sun Tour got underway Wednesday with Alberto Dainese (Sunweb) and Arlenis Sierra (Astana) scooping the opening stage sprints into Shepparton.

In the men’s, 21-year-old Dainese took the sprint from Kaden Groves (Mitchelton-Scott) and Moreno Hofland (EF Pro Cycling) to net his first WorldTour win, having stepped up from continental team SEG Racing this year.

The Italian came close in the Santos Tour Down Under in January, grabbing a 5th and 10th place in sprint finishes. He made it count Wednesday however, opening his move with 100 meters to go and grinding out a dragging sprint to win by less than a bike length over Groves and Hoffland.

“I gained a lot of experience with the big guys [at Tour Down Under], it’s my first year in the WorldTour,” he said after the race. “In Tour Down Under I got to learn a bit in the sprints with the big guys, today was a good opportunity to win.”

Sunweb, Mitchelton Scott, EF Pro Cycling, and Israel Start-Up Nation had led the peloton through the fast wide roads leading into the finale in Shepparton, with sprint trains fanning and oscillating across the road. No single team took control in the final 500 meters, but it was Sunweb who came out top to position Dainese for his acceleration.

“I went into the last corner in around fifth or sixth wheel,” Dainese said. “I waited a little bit in the sprint because it was a bit messy and into a headwind but in the end I managed to take the win.”

Cuban national champion Sierra won the women’s race ahead of Anna Trevisi (Ale BTC Ljubljana) and Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Pro Racing Sunshine Coast).

The race came down to a reduced bunch sprint after the race had split in crosswinds 40km from the finish, leaving a group of 30 riders around 45 seconds ahead of a chase group.

Mitchelton-Scott led the front pack into the final kilometers with Astana surfing the wheels behind them. Astana took over in the final kilometer, but as with the men’s race, the finishing sprint came down to a messy sprint with riders fending for themselves.

Australian rider Roseman-Gannon opened up her move first, with Jess Roberts (Mitchelton-Scott) coming up fast to her side. Sierra timed her acceleration perfectly, allowing her to hit the front and scoop the win as her rivals faded.

The men’s and women’s races continue Thursday with an uphill finish into Falls Creek, where the two-stage women’s race will be decided.

“This is a good result because tomorrow is hard,” said Sierra, who leads the GC going into the final stage. “Tomorrow is another day, but we will try to defend the jersey.”

The five-stage men’s race continues through the week with the Falls Creek stage Thursday before further lumpy stages Friday and Saturday. The race wraps up Sunday with a criterium in Melbourne.