Pithie nabs first tour win in Geelong

Riders pass the GMHBA Stadium during the Cadel Evans elite men’s race. (AAP Image/Con Chronis)

Roger Vaughan (AAP)

Laurence Pithie is a fast learner, taking stock of last week’s costly mistake and storming to his first WorldTour win.

Unlike the last stage at the Tour Down Under, the New Zealand cyclist timed his high-speed finish perfectly to take out the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Geelong.

The 21-year-old was filthy on himself after last Sunday’s summit finish at Mt Lofty in the Adelaide Hills, finding a quiet spot near the finish line to calm down and ring family back home.

The Groupama FDJ rider, in a group of five that decided the stage, had attacked too early and finished fifth.

But it also showed that Pithie had excellent form coming into Sunday and he duly capitalised.

“It’s amazing to finish like this – it’s a dream come true,” he said.

“I was super-disappointed in the moment (a week ago), but looking back on it I rode really well.

“For sure, it was great learning. I knew I could back my sprint a little bit more.”

On Sunday, Pithie bided his time as the 176.5km race came down to a group of 19 in a pulsating finish.

After several late solo attacks failed, Pithie outsprinted Eritrean Natnael Tesfazion (Lidl-Trek) in a photo finish, with German Georg Zimmerman (Intermarche Wanty) third.

The finish was so tight, Pithie had to wait for a few seconds before his win was confirmed.

“Those attacks were going and I knew I just had to be patient,” Pithie said.

“I couldn’t be the one that closed them, otherwise I wouldn’t have the legs for the sprint.

“I just had to wait, wait, wait. I was a little boxed in towards the end, when everyone opened up around the outside, but I managed to find a gap and work my way back.”

Chris Hamilton (Team DSM) was the first Australian, finishing seventh.

While top Australian team Jayco AlUla had another barren race, Luke Plapp rode impressively only days after his nasty crash at the Adelaide Tour.

Swathed in bandages, Plapp made the front group and tried to break away without success, eventually finishing 16th.

Jayco AlUla tried to set up sprinter Caleb Ewan, but he lost touch on the last of four steep climbs up Challambra Crescent on the Geelong finishing circuit.

After Australia’s only WorldTour team dominated the national road championships at the start of the month, Jayco AlUla won no stages in the men’s or women’s Tours and also came away empty handed from the women’s race on Saturday.

Conditions were hot, but the winds were much lighter than on Saturday for the women’s race.

A quartet of Australian rising stars – Dylan Proctor-Parker and Josh Cranage from the ARA team, plus Team Bridgelane pair Zac Marriage and Jackson Medway – broke away early.

They stayed clear as a group until about 60km to go as the race went up Challambra Crescent.

First Proctor-Parker and Cranage dropped back to the peloton and then Marriage and Medway were caught at the top of Challambra on the second-last loop, with 25km left.

Scottish young gun Oscar Onley (Team DSM), who won the iconic Willunga stage at the Tour Down Under, crashed out of the race at 70km.