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GEELONG, Australia (VN) — Liane Lippert (Sunweb) made a daring late-race solo attack to claim victory in a wet and wild WorldTour opener Saturday at the Deakin University-Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
The 22-year-old German rider carried her form from the Santos Tour Down Under, where she was second overall behind Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) last week, and surged clear to put the chasing peloton under pressure.
Rain, crosswinds and a late crash marked the race, and when Lippert opened a gap in the closing kilometers, she never looked back.
“I was confident coming into this race and the whole team had a lot of trust in me,” Lippert said. “I did a risky attack because it was still long, especially when you are alone. I felt really strong and I kept on going, and I made it.”
Defending champion Arlenis Sierra (Astana) led a three-rider chase group across the line at 15 seconds back, with Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) in third, and American Tayler Wiles (Trek-Segafredo) just missing the podium in fourth.
After an early break was reeled in, a key moment came when a big group of riders crashed heavily coming down the decisive Challambra climb on the closing circuit. There were reports of more than a dozen riders on the ground. That split the bunch, with only the riders leading at the front of the group making it clear to contend for the final victory.
Spratt, a winner here in 2016, admitted that the strongest rider on the best-placed team won.
“On the really fast downhill, there was a crash that only maybe 25 riders in the peloton missed,” Spratt said. “I was really out-numbered there once the crash happened. It was up to [Sunweb] to make the race, and I really needed to use my energy wisely. If I did one attack, and it didn’t work, and then I would lose any chance of a podium.”
It was another strong showing for the North Americans in the bunch as the overall level of racing took a step up in 2020 with the WorldTour designation attached to the race for the first time. Canada’s Leah Kirchmann (Sunweb) celebrated her teammate’s victory to kick to fifth in a six-up sprint, ahead of Chloe Hosking (Rally), Lauren Stephens (Tibco-SVB) and Winder coming home in eighth.
The race closes out a big block of racing and training for the top teams. A few will stay on for the final races of the Australian summer, but most riders fly back to Europe on Sunday evening.
Lippert will carry the WorldTour jersey back to Europe and what’s been a successful season-opener for the promising German rider.
“It started with Tour Down Under, and I had really good shape,” Lippert said. “For now, it’s cool to be the leader of the WorldTour. The season is really long, and it’s not my main goal. I want to be good and consistent.”