The Jayco Herald Sun Tour finished today and the Irish team Aqua Blue Sport completed a successful week having secured three podium places and a combativity prize.
The final stage was over a tough and uncompromising loop around hilly Kinglake. The plan from the outset by Aqua Blue Sport was to continue with their strategy of attacking the race. Today was no different as in-form Kiwi and Olympic medallist Aaron Gate and US teammate Larry Warbasse found themselves in a group of big hitters.
Gate made the break which escaped from the peloton on the first lap of four. They worked well together and succeeded in staying clear to the end. Team Sky’s Ian Stannard proved strongest at the finish with Gate finishing second and Taco van der Hoorn of Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij in third.
The general classification time was taken with three kilometres to go due to an oil spill in the final few kilometres of the stage. Australian Damien Howson, riding for Orica Scott, defended his overall lead and won the yellow jersey.
For Aaron Gate the podium is a sign that he is in good form and he believes that it is a good sign for the coming season.
He said: “It was another fast start to the stage today with plenty of attacks and we knew we had to be represented in the break again in case it could go to the line today. I managed to get into the initial move that stuck before Larry was also able to bridge across to us.
“The fireworks started the second to last time up the climb with Larry throwing in a handy attack to shake things up. The break continued to splinter from there, and as much as I tried to sneak away the final time up the climb there was still a decent group of us. A well timed attack from Stannard bagged him a deserved win, and I had to settle for second place even though I was coming at him with everything I had left in the tank up to the line.”
It has been quite a first week of action for Aqua Blue Sport. Achieving multiple top ten finishes at the Dubai Tour and three podium places at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour and the climbers jersey at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race.
Aqua Blue Sport General Manager Stephen Moore said: “It is great to get things off the ground and get the team out racing. The way they have performed here and in Australia, the way the riders animated the race and the great morale, it just shows how we have a great year ahead of us.”
Next stop for Aqua Blue Sport will be the Italian one day race Trofeo Laigueglia on February 12 and then onto the hilly Tour of Oman on February 14.