Dan McLay delivered the first victory of the season for EF Education First Pro Cycling Team on the opening stage of Jayco Herald Sun Tour. The six-day Australian stage race began with 22 laps around the Phillip Island Moto GP circuit.
McLay held off Kristoffer Halvorsen (Team Sky) and Wouter Wippert (EvoPro) to climb to the top step of the podium. With the stage win came the yellow race leader’s jersey.
“I was up for it today,” said McLay. “I didn’t get much personally out of Down Under, so I had the bit between my teeth coming here. I was ready for it.”
“It’s really great to get a win under the belt so early,” McLay added. “It’s good for my confidence going forward. It’s about time I won something.”
Team founder Jonathan Vaughters echoed McLay’s sentiment: “The first win just means that we’re starting to emerge from a few years of chaos. It takes a while to build a team. Now that we have a solid foundation under us, we can start to build.”
Jimmy Whelan was the first to show the team colours on the 97-kilometer stage. The rookie forced clear in a three-rider escape during the opening hour of the race.
“I called him back to the bunch,” said sport director Tom Southam. “Trek just kept it at 40-seconds while he was out there, so it was a waste of time. We knew that we’d probably have to ride later, but the break was quite simple to catch.”
With one lap left to race, the race was back together and the peloton readied for a bunch sprint.
“It was a crosswind around the last long curve,” said McLay. “Mitch [Docker] kept us out of the wind, pulling around the front through the last curve. Tom [Scully] gave me a big pull coming onto the final stretch. He dropped me off just inside the last 200 meters, 180 meters maybe, and I just held on.”
First to open the sprint, McLay was first across the line.
“Mitch did a really nice job adapting to the lead-out to suite the conditions,” said Southam. “They nailed it.”
The Jayco Herald Sun Tour continues on Thursday (Wednesday in United States), with a 127 kilometre stage that includes a category one climb that tops out 12 kilometres from the race finish in Churchill