By Derek Schlennstedt
Some of the world’s best cyclists set off from River Street, Healesville, on Tuesday 30 January for a 123.5km round trip of the Yarra Valley as part of the inaugural Women’s Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
Under grey skies and light rain, Queenslander Brodie Chapman made history when she won the Thule Stage, the first UCI-sanctioned Women’s Herald Sun Tour.
The star-studded peloton generated plenty of excitement along the Yarra Valley course, which made its way from Healesville to Yarra Glen and Warburton, before making a difficult final ascent up Toolangi and ending in a close finish back in Healesville.
From the start, it was Chapman who asserted her dominance, leading the 29-strong peloton and overhauling an attack from Sydney Uni – Staminade’s Jade Colligan.
It was at the front where Chapman would remain for much of the race, even fending off a concerted effort from world time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-SCOTT) who looked to have ended Chapman’s hopes of a heroic victory as they descended down Chum Creek Road.
Though, the Queenslander – who also works a full-time job – held on to the lead to finish eight seconds ahead of the chasing Dutchwoman.
As expected, the 26-year-old part of the KordaMentha Real Estate – Australia team was overwhelmed by the victory.
“It is so good – victory tastes so sweet,” Chapman said.
“I had a rough 2017, and have been trying to get back on the bike and do something satisfying … today was that day.”
In previous years, the Men’s Herald Sun Tour has also called the Yarra Valley home.
Speaking to the Mail about the inaugural women’s event, Chapman said it is fantastic that the women’s event has been included into this year’s Herald Sun Tour.
“I love this area, I’m so stoked, it’s so good, the fact that we have a women’s Herald Sun Tour for the first time is just awesome … when I watched the men two years ago, I was like – why don’t they have a women’s race. So to be able to do it is so good and to ride for KortaMenths is just great.”
The challenging Stage 1 of the women’s tour wasn’t without it incidents and certainly tested the stamina of the riders.
Two riders were involved in a crash early on in the race along Old Warburton Rd – with one being taken to hospital.
Even world time trial champion, Annemiek van Vleuten, who took out second place, was seen lying down and clearly exhausted after crossing the finish-line.
“I gave absolutely everything … I was thinking I might get her (Chapman),” the 35-year-old said.
“That was my goal – I want to win here. I did not know who was in front, so when I caught one of the riders, I was not sure if there were any more ahead of me. I just gave everything. On every small rise, I thought I had to go really hard. I came really close and gave everything!”
Canberran Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini) closed out the top three, finishing just over one minute behind Annemiek van Vleuten.
The women’s Herald Sun Tour will conclude on Wednesday 31 January, with an electric 1.6km time-trial in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, where time-trial world champion Annemiek will debut her rainbow stripes and will need to make up a 12 second advantage held by Chapman.
*The men’s race starts on Wednesday 31 January in Melbourne and finishes at Kinglake on Sunday 4 February.
The course will cover a gruelling 732km, the race returning to Marysville for the first time in 10 years with Stage 3 on Saturday, 3 February, featuring an epic ride up Lake Mountain.
The final stage on Sunday is around Kinglake, with riders facing an additional lap of the exciting 31km circuit to ensure a thrilling finale.
More details at http://bit.ly/2noVgWk