Lidl-Trek lit up the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on Sunday and came agonisingly close to victory with two of their riders. Quinn Simmons was caught by the peloton inside the final kilometre after a late solo attack only for Natnael Tesfazion to be out-bike-thrown by Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ) during the reduced-group sprint in Geelong.
After a lacklustre week of performances at the Tour Down Under – where their best result was a Bauke Mollema ninth place on the final stage – the American squad were back at the pointy end of racing and setting the agenda for the final 30km.
Had it not been for Pithie’s incredible final sprint, it would have been a perfectly executed game plan. Nonetheless, it was still a great display from some of their younger riders and Tesfazion’s best result at WorldTour level, especially important with the 24-year-old Eritrean in a contract year.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that we were disappointed with the results from the Santos Tour Down Under. We had some good performances but we lacked something at the end of the week so, to get this result here is super nice,” said Tesfazion via a press release.
“We had a plan coming into the race. We wanted to make the race hard on the circuits and my job was to be there for a small group sprint. Thanks to how we raced as a team, we were able to execute our plan almost to perfection.
“Sometimes it’s difficult when you finish second by such a small margin but I am happy with this result and this performance both for myself and for the Team.”
The American team’s intentions for the finale were clear when Czech national champion Mathias Vacek led Simmons into the base of the penultimate ascent up Challambra Crescent and it was non-stop attacks from the whole team until the line came.
Juan Pedro Lopez led Lidl-Trek’s charge inside the final 22km as he clipped off the front to force the likes of Jayco AlUla and Israel-Premier Tech to chase, and Mollema would share a similar role each time the Spaniard was reeled in, showing no signs of slowing down at 37.
After surviving the final reps of Challambra Crescent and Melville Ave, Simmons shot out for glory after he and Vacek showed their hand earlier in the day, ripping away from the leading group 3.8km from the line.
The much lighter Archie Ryan (EF-Education EasyPost) failed to close the gap and two bike lengths developed into five metres, suddenly Simmons’ power had granted him a gap that he looked capable of…