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Monday, January 30, 2023

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Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race reports

We posted the race organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from winner Marius Mayrhofer's Team DSM:

Taking their second win in the space of less than 12 hours, Maris Mayrhofer surged to a brilliant sprint victory for Team DSM at the WorldTour-level Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race today in Geelong.

Marius Mayrhofer wins a big one.

Riding superbly as a unit all afternoon the team stayed safe in the early crosswind threats before the race hit the finishing circuits. Chris Hamilton and Matt Dinham covered several moves from the attackers on the steep Challambra climb; allowing Romain Combaud, Tim Naberman and Martijn Tusveld to support Mayrhofer in the bunch and save energy.

Coming over the ascent for the last time, Dinham and Mayrhofer made it into an elite group which would ultimately catch the last attacking duo and duke it out for the win. Launching from far and coming with speed, Mayrhofer kept his momentum up all the way to the line, raising his arm aloft to celebrate a sublime team victory – and the first in his professional career.

Speaking after the race Mayrhofer said: “It means everything to me. The last race I won was in the juniors so to finally take my first win, it means everything. The team did an awesome job all day. We did this hard climb four times and every time I was in the front because of them. They covered the moves so I could stick in the bunch and save energy for the final. There is a little downhill before the finish where I could build up speed and I then launched the sprint early and went full-gas to the line.

"I was dreaming of this victory for so long, I cannot believe what happened. This is such a great victory for us. We were riding so well together in Tour Down Under and didn’t quite get the result we wanted, so to finish our time off in Australia with a win today is unbelievable. Thanks to the whole team, staff and everyone – they really deserve to have the win too.”

Team DSM coach Luke Roberts added: “After the racing wrapped up in Adelaide last week, we took quite some confidence out of it. We knew with the qualities we had then we would have a good chance to go for the victory here. We kept our focus on the race and prepared well for this during the week. We came in with a good plan to try and set Marius up for the win. The boys didn’t put a foot wrong today, they rode really well as a group and it was a strong team effort from everyone. It was great to see Marius get up and take the victory, it’s very well deserved for all of the boys.”

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Here’s the report from third-place Simon Clarke’s Team Israel-Premier Tech:

Simon Clarke stood on the podium at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race for the second time in his career after sprinting to third place to wrap up his Australian season in the best way possible. Clarke was joined in the top-five by Corbin Strong to make it a brilliant day for IPT at the WorldTour race.

Here's another shot of the finish.

The one-day race clearly suits Clarke, who finished in second place in his only other participation in 2015, to give him a “100% podium success rate” as Clarke so aptly said.

“Tour Down Under was a disappointing result from the team’s point of view because it didn’t reflect how well we rode and how strong everyone was. So, as a group, we were super motivated for today to justify the quality of the team we had here and how well we worked together. I think the fact we were two in the top-five is exactly where we deserved to be today,” explained Clarke.

“It was a good day for the team. Today was a tricky race with a lot of wind influencing the race, particularly a headwind up the climb so it was hard for the climbers to make a difference, and then the headwind after we turned right after the finish line really shut the race down as you saw on tv. Any breakaways got reeled back on that straight because you had to use too much energy to stay away.”

In the end, it came down to a combination of saving energy and strength in numbers.

“I just tried to stay hidden and save myself and stick to the team plan which was to save myself and Corbin to go deep in the race. Even on the final lap, I was there around the front but I was really conscious of not spending any extra energy up the last climb because I knew that it was going to be some kind of bunch sprint. The plan was for Corbin and I to stick together in the finish but we kind of lost each other and in the end, we both sprinted. I’m quite surprised to come third in the end but really happy, as it’s also some great points for the team,” said Clarke

A solo breakaway made for a quiet first half of racing and although the race picked up on the local laps, with multiple splits in the peloton on each lap, the stage was set for a bunch sprint when the last attack was caught inside the final kilometer. In the chaos of the finale, IPT had two cards to play with both Clarke and Strong in a position to sprint behind Marius Mayrhofer (Team DSM) who took the win.

For Sports Director Sam Bewley, who made his DS debut for IPT in Australia, today’s result was a fitting reward for the team’s hard work over the last month in Australia.

“I’m really proud of the guys today,” said Bewley. “I think we deserved more at Tour Down Under but circumstances meant we didn’t get that. But the way the guys rallied this weekend was great. We had such a good team and they knew that we could get a good result here. Our goal was a podium and we did that with third with Clarkey and fifth with Corbin so I’m really happy to close out the Australian campaign like this and really proud of the guys and everyone else. Our goal was to have numbers on the last lap. To do that sometimes you have to take a few risks and we did take a few risks at times and it was maybe a bit nervous. But I was happy to stick to the plan because if you have numbers in the final, it can go your way and we had four guys in a group of 30.”

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And here's the Cadel Evans Road Race report from Team Soudal Quick-Step:

A frustrating 300 meters separated Mauro Schmid from what could have been the first victory of his career in a World Tour one-day race, only a late charge from the already reduced peloton putting an end to his hopes of winning the seventh edition of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

Mauro Schmid a few days ago after the third stage of the Tour Down Under. Sirotti photo

Schmid wasn’t the only Soudal Quick-Step rider in the thick of the action in Sunday’s race. With more than 30 kilometers to go, when the bunch split on one of the numerous climbs on the course, our team could count on Dries Devenyns and Stan Van Tricht. The defending champion was the one to ignite an important action, digging deep and getting a nice gap that allowed him to stay in the front until the last 20 kilometers, when the other teams came back. Sadly, a crash took him out of the equation in the last part of the race, but on bright side, Dries had no serious injuries after this incident.

Mauro, who came at the start after a solid outing that brought him a top 5 overall at the Tour Down Under, joined a move late into the race, jumping out of the bunch in pursuit of lone leader Sven Erik Bystrom (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty) and catching the Norwegian, together with whom he went on to forge a ten-second margin over the chasers. The duo carried that lead inside the final two kilometers, and despite having been reduced to just seven seconds by the time they passed under the flamme rouge, things were still looking good for them.

It took a sudden acceleration of a rider at a moment the peloton was beginning to lose time again for the others to wake up and put an end to the leaders’ hopes, who were mopped up on the finishing stretch just as they were preparing to open the sprint. The victory went to Marius Mayrhofer (DSM), while Schmid – empty after the huge effort in those frantic kilometers – was 14th in Geelong.

“I had a good feeling today. In the end I’m happy that I tried something and I gave everything, that’s why I don’t have any regrets. We both went as hard as we could, especially considering that we had a headwind after the descent, which helped the peloton to come back. We rode great as a team, everybody was committed, it’s just a pity that we lost Dries to that crash, otherwise he too could have done a good result. Overall, despite missing a win here, I think we can look back quite satisfied on our outing in Australia, it’s encouraging for the next races”, Mauro explained at the finish.

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GP d'Ouverture - La Marseillaise reports

We posted the report from third-place Brent Van Moer's Team Lotto Dstny with the results.

Here's the report from winner Neilson Powless' Team EF Education-EasyPost:

Neilson Powless won today’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Marseille with a spectacular solo attack.

The American rode across to the front group in the finale and then launched with 16 kilometres left. It may have looked like a hail mary move, but Neilson made sure that no one could catch him. He flew to the finish by the Cote d’Azur port to celebrate his victory in France’s traditional season opener.

Neilson Powless wins in style. Sirotti photo

“It is a pretty awesome feeling," Neilson says. "I was in so much pain on the last descent and when it started to flatten out. I had to push hard, but luckily I pulled enough time out of the guys behind on the final descent that they were racing for second. That gave me a bit of freedom in the last few hundred metres to just sit up and take it in and let the pain ease and just post up. It was really nice."

This is the third victory of Neilson’s career and first of this season. The Grand Prix Cycliste de Marseille is a special race for Neilson. He has made the Cote d’Azur his European home and come to love the cliffs and coves by the coast and the rugged hills of the Provençal heartland.

"It is beautiful here," he says. "We did the preride yesterday and rode the last 70 kilometres of the race and the whole time it was just amazing views of these cliffs dropping straight into the sea with super, super blue water. This is just a beautiful place to race a bike. There is a big cycling culture in this area, so it was nice to put on a nice show for those people."

After setting up his teammate Marijn van den Berg at the Trofeo ses Salines-Port d’Alcudia to secure Marijn’s first professional victory, Neilson made the trip to back France with the ambition to win himself. He knew his form was good after a solid block of training and racing in Mallorca, but pulling it off would be another matter altogether. Neilson felt strong all day. He closed gaps without wasting energy, bridged across to the first group in the finale and then made his move count.

"We knew that there was a steep climb about 50 kilometres from the finish and that was going to be the most likely launchpad for any of the puncheurs to get away from the sprinters, so the plan was just to follow because we knew Marijn was good. He just won a race in Mallorca so we had a lot of confidence in him for the sprint," Neilson says.

Having Marijn in the peloton gave Neilson a great tactical advantage. He could save his strength and pick his time to go.

"I just tried to play it cool, "Neilson says. "Ben Healy and I took turns following moves on the steep climb. There were a lot of guys trying, but in the end I was able to follow a slightly larger group over the top of the steep climb and just stayed in the wheels for a while, and then I started to work with them, and the time went out pretty fast. Almost all of the big teams were represented in that group, so it was a good group that could go to the finish. The cohesion wasn’t super great, so I just tried to play it cool and kept reminding myself that I had Marijn behind and didn't need to force it. I was preventing myself from driving it because my legs felt really, really strong. I had to just keep reminding myself that I have burned myself in the past by assuming that I was the strongest one in the group and burning all of my matches where it didn’t really matter."

Finally, the moment came when Neilson could light up the race.

"It would always be a risk to take ten guys to the finish, so Tejay, our sports director, told me there was a good launch pad to try to get away," he says. "It was kind of the last climb of the day, kind of a stair step climb, but the bottom was pretty steep, so he said that would be the best launchpad to at least get rid of some guys or get away, but going down to it, I ended up just pulling a gap. I pulled through and gave it a few hard pedal strokes and looked behind and there was a pretty big gap. I just told myself that I was going to be attacking in two or three kilometres anyways, so I will just press on and basically from that point on it was just a time trial all the way to the finish. Marijn was telling me in the radio that the peloton was not working super well and the guys in the peloton were still within radio shot and were giving me some encouragement along with Tejay and that really helped push me on and tell me that I could make it over the top and make it down on my own. I am just super happy that it worked out."

This win is the best way for Neilson to get his 2023 season rolling.

“In bike racing, you have to make sure everything goes perfectly and comes together on the right day. I’m just so happy it finally came together for me today,” Neilson said.

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