The sprinters got their chance in a hilly third stage at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in Australia, a day ahead of a decisive mountaintop finale.
Neo-pro Kaden Groves delivered Mitchelton-Scott the stage win the Aussie outfit had been missing in the opening two stages of Australia’s oldest stage race.
Groves out-kicked stage 1 winner Alberto Dainese (Sunweb), with Mihkel Räim of Israel Start-Up Nation crossing the line third.
“I’ve been trying to get the first win with the new team,” Groves said. “The guys have been riding so well together that they really deserve this. Today was a perfect team effort so I’m pretty happy to repay them with a win.”
It was a hectic stage from the beginning, with a tough climb to open the day’s racing. A break formed, putting pressure on the sprinters to bring it back. A late climb added another barrier, but it all came back together for the mass sprint.
“It was a difficult stage today. The race was on from the beginning,” said Sunweb sport director Luke Roberts. “There was a tough climb near the start of the stage and it took almost 50km for the race to settle down. With a climb in the final, we knew it would be a tricky one to try and get Alberto there for the sprint. Michael [Storer] and Jai [Hindley] were good together in the front of the peloton and Jai’s yellow jersey was well protected.”
The sprint finale sets up Saturday’s decisive mountaintop finale at Mount Buller that should crown the overall winner. With Sunday’s circuit course in Melbourne to close out the race with another likely sprint, the GC should be settled on the steep slopes of Mount Buller. The 106.6km stage features two easier early climbs before the showdown on the summit.
Expect the same protagonists from Thursday’s second stage to Falls Creek return to the frame. Overnight leader Jai Hindley (Sunweb) will have his hands full as he tries to fend off Mitchelton-Scott, EF Pro Cycling and others.
Hindley leads Damien Howson (Mitchelton-Scott) by just four seconds, with Neilson Powless (EF Pro Cycling) poised at a podium run in fourth at 23 seconds back. Sebastian Berwick, 20, (St. George) stayed with the WorldTour pros at Falls Creek, and will be under pressure to hold his podium spot at third at six seconds back.
Warm temperatures are also expected as the stage races near some of the areas affected by Australia’s brutal bush fires.
Stage 3 results:
- Kaden Groves Mitchelton-Scott): 4:07:27
- Alberto Dainese (Sunweb): S.T
- Mihkel Räim (Israel Start-Up Nation): S.T
GC after stage 3:
- Jai Hindley (Sunweb): 9:50:30
- Damian Howson (Mitchelton-Scott):+0:00:04
- Sebastian Berwick (St George): +0:00:06