There is just one stage of the women’s racing at the Santos Tour Down Under left and one final chance to claim the title in the race’s first year as part of the Women’s WorldTour. While Alex Manly’s (Jayco-AlUla) stage 2 victory means she is sitting in ochre, her rivals are still close enough to detect the scent of victory wafting tantalisingly in their direction.
The three-stage race started off with a crosswind-heavy coastal sprint and then moved onto a lumpy and short but sharp stage 2. It now delivers a climbing finale with the brutal slopes of the Corkscrew topping out little more than 7km from the finish.
It will be the final skirmish in the GC battle which took flight on stage 2, the shortest of the race at 90 km, but with enough kick in the climbs to deliver 1631m of elevation gain. There was a fierce attack from three-time winner Amanda Spratt on Mount Lofty, which was ultimately caught within the final kilometre of racing and with Manly winning and teammate Ruby Roseman-Gannon also in the top four, the advantage turned in Jayco-AlUla’s favour.
Before the stage, the Australian team’s Head Sport Director Martin Vestby had flagged that the squad would be prepared for aggressive racing, which was evident in their reaction to Spratt’s move, first with the efforts to hook on the back and then, when that didn’t work, by having their two key riders in the final chase group.
Still Vestby was clear that even before stage 2, that while Monday mattered it was Tuesday’s final stage that had the terrain that would really make the difference.
“You’re winning the GC tomorrow,” Vestby told Cyclingnews Monday morning. “I think everybody knows that the final climb up the Corkscrew will be the decisive one for the general classification. But today sets everything up,” he said before the stage that put two of his team’s riders in the top four.
The closest rider to Manly in the overall classification is stage two runner-up Georgia Williams (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) at eight seconds. When speaking to Cyclingnews before the stage, the rider from New Zealand flagged Monday as a day where “she might give it a go” as the rolling terrain suited her, but she played down any suggestion that it may play into a GC focus – though after her stage 2 result who knows whether or not that could change.
A clear and acknowledged threat on the overall, however, is Grace Brown (FDJ Suez) and judging by Monday’s efforts to chase Spratt down after her attack, she has…