It was supposed to be another match up between Tour de Snowy race leader Anna Millward and reigning world road champion Zinaidaia Stahurskaia … and it was, to a point. As the season-opening Australian stage race moved into serious climbing, Stahurskaia challenged Millward and forced her out of the leader’s jersey. But Millward’s Saturn team was ready and just as she faltered, her teammate Kim Bruckner was ready to take up the challenge winning the stage and keeping the jersey in the family.
Saturn has clearly dominated the race from the start, with Millward winning the first three stages and her teammates Anke Erlank and now Bruckner taking one each. Only Monday’s 77km stage from Thredbo to Khancoban saw a break in the Saturn streak as Stahurskaia wore down thee field on the day’s most significant climb. But Millward fought back, chased and caught the world champion just three kilometers from the finish. Her second place was more than good enough to keep her in yellow. The stage was set for another battle with Tuesday’s uphill finish to Cabramurra 111km after the start.
With a relatively flat first half, the field remained fairly intact until an intermediate hill sprint at 55km. Fearing a strong challenge in the hills from Stahurskaia, the Saturn squad began a series of attacks with the hope of getting one of the team off the front well before the final climb. It wasn’t until the third attempt that Saturn’s Bruckner broke clear in the company of Margaret Hemsley (Australian Institute of Sport).
Unable to organize a chase, Stahurskaia and a chase group of five — including Millward — arrived at the base of the final climb nearly five minutes behind the two leaders. As the grade steepened Stahurskaia rode away from her companions, but still had Bruckner and Hemsley ahead. Bruckner, meanwhile, maintained a steady pace, finally shedding Hemsley and crossing the line 1:38 ahead of her one-time companion. Stahurskaia crossed four minutes later.
While Stahurskaia gained nearly two minutes on Millward in the stage, she suddenly had new concerns, now facing a 1:30 deficit in the overall standings. Wednesday’s two-stage finale’ may offer Stahurskaia a last opportunity. The morning event opens with a long 20km climb, but then closes with a long downhill stretch. If she hopes to overcome Bruckner’s lead, the Belarussian will have to crest that first climb with a serious advantage. Wednesday afternoon’s criterium offers an event quite suited to Bruckner’s Saturn squad and offers little opportunity for Stahurskaia’s GAS Sport team to take away much time at all.
1. Kim Bruckner (USA), Saturn, 110.8km in 4:04:31 (27.2kph),
2. Margaret Hemsley (Aus), Australian Institute of Sport, at 1:38
3. Zinaidaia Stahurskaia (Blr), GAS Sport, at 4:03
4. Fany Lecourtois (F), Alfa Lum-RSM, at 4:09
5. Kim Shirley (Aus), Australian Institute of Sport, at 5:57
6. Kim Smith (USA), Autotrader.com
7. Anna Millward (Aus), Saturn
8. Mirjam Melchers (NL), Acca Due O-H.P., all s.t.
9. Rosalind Reekie-May (NZ), New Zealand National, at 6:43
10. Sigrid Corneo (Ita), Carpe Diem-Itera, at 8:34
11. Sarah Ulmer (NZ), Autotrader.com
12. Hayley Rutherford (Aus), Australian Institute of Sport
13. Sara Carrigan (Aus), Australian Institute of Sport
14. Priska Doppmann (Swi), Acca Due O-H.P.
15. Mari Holden (USA), Alfa Lum-RSM
16. Melissa Holt (NZ), New Zealand National
17. Anke Erlank (RSA), Saturn
18. Karen Sumpton (Aus), Australian Institute of Sport
19. Emma Carney (Aus), Jayco-VIS, all s.t.
20. Pam Shuster (USA), Autotrader.com, at 10:15
Overall after six stages
1. Bruckner, 10:40:13
2. Stahurskaia, at 1:30
3. Hemsley, at 2:20
4. Millward, at 2:54
5. Shirley, at 5:53
6. Lecourtois, at 6:25
7. Melchers, at 6:52
8. Smith, at 8:22
9. Erlank, at 8:27
10. Doppmann, at 8:43