Quick-Step Floors in the thick of the action at Cadel Evans Race
At the end of what has been one of the toughest races since the start of the season, Petr Vakoč and Gianluca Brambilla finished in the top 10.
19 squads lined out on Sunday for the third edition of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, a 174km-long event held on a tough undulating route, made even more harder by the searing heat. That didn't stop four riders from going in the escape and carving out a 10-minute maximum advantage after 25 kilometers: Connor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport), Alex Porter (Australian National Team), Kirill Sveshnikov (Gazprom-RusVelo) and Angel Vicioso (Katusha). The quartet stayed at the front until the final 35 kilometers, when the peloton picked up the pace and reabsorbed the leaders, before launching several attacks.
Quick-Step Floors was among the teams to take the responsibility and set up a high tempo, which stretched out the bunch and led to many riders being distanced. Things heated up on the first lap of the Geelong circuit, which included the Challambra Crescent climb (900 meters, 22% maximum gradient). A new move, this time counting five riders, was born there, but didn't get too much space, so it was all back together again with 20 kilometers to go.
On the final lap, once the pack went over the top of the climb, Dries Devenyns ignited a move and was joined by two other men, but despite his valiant effort, they were soon reintegrated in the peloton. Richie Porte (BMC) was next to put in a dangerous attack, and after he was reeled in, Cameron Meyer (UniSa-Australia) tried to seize the moment and give the peloton the slip, but the race eventually finished in a reduced bunch sprint, in which Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb) edged out Simon Gerrans (Orica-Scott) and Meyer.
New Zealand ITT Champion Jack Bauer was very active in the last kilometers of the brutal Australian event, controlling the opponents' moves and protecting his teammates, as it became more and more clear that the Cadel Evans Road Race will come down to a bunch gallop. Petr Vakoč and Gianluca Brambilla took advantage of that and got involved in the fight for the top places, finishing 6th, respectively 8th, thus adding more World Tour points to Quick-Step Floors' 2017 tally.
"The plan today was to anticipate a lot of attacks and to put a rider in the escape. Unfortunately, there was not too much attacking action until only two laps to go. We started to think of a possible victory at that point. On the last climb, attacks came, and Dries managed to go with a small group. At that time, if it were to all come together in the last 4-5 kilometres and another small group were to get away, then Jack could have his moment, or even Petr. Brambilla was also confident that he could stay with riders like Gerrans and Porte", explained sport director Rik van Slycke. "Towards the end, we had a few riders in the first group and there were some attacks before the final sprint. Brambi was there, however, when he wanted to do the sprint, there was a bit of unexpected movement in the group, and he got pushed aside, so it did not go through as planned. In the end, however, the team finished in 6th and 8th place with Vakoč and Brambilla respectively, which is quite a good performance, considering what a hard day it was today."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele