Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Nettie Edmondson has won the opening stage of the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under, in Gumeracha, in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia, in a fast bunch sprint. The 26-year-old Adelaidean outpaced former black and orange teammate Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance Pro Cycling) at the finish, to cross the line more than a length clear of the former World Champion, with Lauretta Hanson (UniSA-Australia) third.
“Today was very, very good!” Edmondson laughed after the finish. “I’m very happy with that. The team rode so well. We talked about going for the sprint, but there was always a bit of a question mark with the first race of the year because you’re not really sure how you’re going to go against the rest with all the international riders coming. You don’t know who’s targeted the race and who hasn’t.
“I knew that my form was good the last couple of weeks, so I wanted to have a crack. I haven’t been in this form for a while at the Tour Down Under so I thought that this was the year I was going to do well if I was ever going to.
“To be honest I really thought that stage 4 would be the best opportunity for us, but if we were going to win a road stage then stage 1 would also be good. It’s a bit more of a flatter course if it wasn’t going to be windy along the back straight up the KOM.”
There was a worry for the sprinters in the second half of the stage when a solo breakaway from 2012 World Championship Silver Medalist Rachel Neylan (UniSA-Australia) got more than a minute clear. Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling worked with other teams to pull her back, however, and she was back in the peloton with two kilometres to go.
“We had amazing team and it did a great job,” Edmondson explained. “We had Audrey [Cordon-Ragot] constantly going back for bidons to keep the team cool, and Rachele Barbieri was a great team player; she kept around me the whole time, and made sure I was out of trouble.
“When Rachel Neylan got away with 20km to go, it was a really good move. She got straight out to a minute 20 and all of a sudden we thought that could be the end of the race. [Mitchelton-Scott] went to the front, because they’re going for the overall, so we chucked in a couple of girls.
“Audrey and Amy Cure did a great job, working really hard, and then Eri [Yonamine] popped in when Amy was tired, so the three of them went really well and helped [Mitchelton-Scott] bring Neylan back.
“I’m really proud of them for doing that and it makes the victory so much sweeter because we deserved it.”
Into the final kilometre the Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling team organised around Edmondson and, despite it being their first race together, managed to perfectly position the former double Track World Champion. There was a crash with around 300m to go, which saw black and orange debutant Macey Stewart come down hard, but not before the former Junior World Time Trial Champion had set her sprinter up for the finish.
“Rachele found me coming into the finish and put me in a really good position,” said Edmondson. “And then I found Macey [Stewart] as well and she finished off the last bit, putting me into the UniSA lead out train. We did what we could in the messy situation, and I jumped on the train.
“Then with about 400m to go we took the last corner and I tried to be patient. Lauretta Hanson kicked with about 200m to go, but I left my run really late because of the headwind and, sure enough, timed it perfectly!
“I’m really happy with that, and it means a lot to take this win with a home crowd on home soil!”
As well as the stage victory, Edmondson earned the first Ochre Jersey of the 2018 Santos Women’s Tour Down Under, which she will wear on the second stage between Lyndoch and Mengler’s Hill on Friday.
1. Annette Edmondson (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)
2. Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance Pro Cycling)
3. Lauretta Hanson (UniSA-Australia)
Photo Credit: Kirsty Baxter