Three Podium Results at The 2016 Herald Sun Tour
The men of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team set the tone for their 2016 racing season with three podium performances from five stages at the season-opening Herald Sun Tour last week. The Melbourne-based stage race attracted a World Tour-strength field to the coastal roads of Australia for what proved to be a fierce block of racing. After making a late race move, Tanner Putt was the first UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team rider to podium, with a second place finish in a reduced-bunch breakwaway sprint on Stage 2. Putt’s result rallied the team, who then rode Stage 3 in pursuit of the sprint finish. In a show of force, the team delivered John Murphy to the line in prime position, and Murphy sealed the deal with a nail-bitingly close win on the line in Inverloch. The queen stage of the race also served as the finale for the 5-stage event, in which Australian Jonny Clarke used his home soil advantage and fantastic early season form to make the select group of World Class riders that broke away on the final lap up the famed Arthur’s Seat climb to the finish. Not content with merely making the group, Clarke attacked on the steep climb to come across the line in third place.
The Herald Sun Tour, a fixture on the early season calendar since 1952, attracts the world’s best teams to prove their form early in the year. The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team’s results in Australia are validation of the hard work put in by riders and staff over the off season. Keep reading to see how the race unfolded for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team.
Tanner Putt Makes Breakaway Selection to Take Second Place on Stage Two
After a relatively quiet prologue and first road stage, the team settled into a rhythm on stage 2 and the results soon followed. An exciting late-race breakaway was the launch pad for Tanner Putt to overcome Tour de France champion Chris Froome on stage 2 of the Herald Sun Tour. The elite six-person move dashed away from the peloton on the short and sharp climb on the run in to the finish in the town of Moe. What was expected to end in a large bunch finish proved more unpredictable as Putt followed the wheel of Chris Froome and his teammate Peter Kennaugh. Putt found the wheel of race favourite Caleb Ewan in the final meters and dispatched with the Team Sky duo, but couldn’t quite overcome Ewan at the line.
“I was in good position so I followed Froome.” said Putt, “I knew we would make it with the gap we got so I just stayed on Caleb’s [Ewan] wheel, knowing he was the fastest sprinter.” With two Team Sky riders in the break, the young UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team rider was relieved of the pressure to do too much work, and instead Putt could focus on the upcoming sprint, “With 1km to go, Peter Kennaugh attacked and Caleb and I followed. When Caleb started his sprint at 200m I tried to follow but he was too fast.” Putt crossed the line in second place, having bested some of the strongest and most renowned riders in the peloton. Putt was especially appreciative of his team throughout the stage, “I was happy with the result and want to thank my teammates and staff for the support.”
John Murphy Wins Stage Three Sprint by Width of a Tire
The UnitedHealthcare Blue Train took stage 3 of the race by the horns and worked hard to deliver John Murphy to the line first. The seasoned sprinter on the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team benefited from the hard, selfless work of his teammates, who put him in the perfect position on the fast and flat finish into Inverloch. Murphy then jumped from the bunch to take the win by less than a tire width. Murphy, racing the Herald Sun Tour for the third time, was elated with his win, “The boys did an amazing job keeping me in good position all day. In the finale, it was a bit hectic coming into the final turn before the finish, but Tanner [Putt] and Ty [Magner] had me in perfect position and all I had to do was sprint. It was awesome and so much fun. I love racing with these guys.”
Jonny Clarke Clinches Third on Queen Stage of Race
Jonny Clarke, the Australian all-rounder, came to the Herald Sun Tour as the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team’s protected GC rider. With familiarity of the terrain, Clarke was an invaluable source of knowledge for the rest of the squad during the race. Hoping for a notable result on the Queen Stage, Clarke was looked after by the team and positioned well on the opening circuits of Arthur’s Seat, the famed 4-km climb that makes the crux of the final stage of racing. With the race blown apart by Team Sky’s Chris Froome, Clarke worked hard to come to the fore of the chasing group. Not willing to wait for a sprint from the reduced bunch, Clarke then made a move towards the top of the final ascent, reducing the gap to second place and grabbing the final spot on the podium for his teammates.
The final podium completed a strong block of racing for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team in Australia. With three podiums over the four days of road racing and short opening prologue, the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train proved once again that it can be successful at the highest level of racing. The tenacity and opportunism shown by all of the team represent a squad hungry for victory. The team is also currently fielding a squad of riders at the Tour of Qatar, followed by the Tour of Oman starting on February 16th.