Bendigo’s Sam Crome, riding for the Avanti Isowhey Sports team for the first time, has taken out the 2016 Lakes Oil-Fulton Hogan Tour of the Great South Coast which finished in Portland last Sunday. The twenty-three-year-old took just an eleven second advantage over Lakes-Oil’s Benjamin Hill into the final stage criterium on the scenic waterfront circuit and held that margin all the way to the finish with his teammate, Ballarat’s Patrick Shaw, a further seven seconds back in third place.
Crome took over the Tour lead on the second stage around the Blue Lakes circuit in Mount Gambier on the opening day of racing. Conditions for that stage were deplorable as heavy rain and then a hail storm descended over the peloton mid-race and it appeared at one point that organisers had some concern over the completion to the stage.
Earlier on the opening day, current National Criterium jersey wearer, Jesse Kerrison, from Queensland, riding for the State of the Matter/MAAP team, took out the 36km criterium around Vansittart Park in Mount Gambier’s CBD. He defeated three-time Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist, Scott Sunderland, from Western Australia with the Inform Racing Team with Shaw (Avanti Isowhey Sports) in third place.
Shaw would take the tour’s overall lead on a countback from Pat’s Veg Cycling’s Cyrus Monk from Warragul heading into the second stage. The field of 88 riders lapped the short 1.2km circuit averaging 45.5km/hr with Monk leading the way in the Campolina Sprint Points Competition after the opening stage.
By the time the tour had set-up for stage two, the sky had darkened and the weather was looking even more threatening than it was for the opening stage. A group of around 21 riders, including Crome, broke clear from the rest mid-way through the 65km stage, ten laps of a 6.5km circuit around the iconic Blue Lakes, and would remain away until the finish.
In the end it was Crome who celebrated winning the uphill finish adjacent to the Reidy Park Primary School from State of the Matter/MAAP’s Ryan Cavanagh from Queensland with Victorian Nathan Elliott (Lakes Oil) in third place. The win elevated Crome into the tour leader’s jersey, fifteen seconds ahead of Cavanagh and a further four seconds back to Shaw in third place.
The tour left Mount Gambier on day two and headed south towards the coastline, for the lobster capital of South Australia, Port MacDonnell. The longest stage of the race awaited the peloton, some 137 kilometres on an out-and-back course starting and finishing in Port MacDonnell.
South Australian, Alexander Porter, riding for the SASI/Callidus team, stole the show, winning the stage from Monk and JML Racing’s Sam Lane after the trio combined with New Zealander, Nicholas Kergozou (Mobius Future Racing), to break free from the peloton halfway through the stage. In windy conditions the quartet managed to keep the main field at bay, Porter crossing the line four minutes and 36 seconds ahead of Hill who brought the bunch home.
Crome remained in the tour lead while Hill swapped places with Shaw to be in third place at the end of the second day. Monk and Hill were in a tight tussle for the Campolina Sprint Points competition with the former holding a three point lead and in the Scody King of the Mountains competition; Shaw and fellow Ballarat rider, Angus Lyons (Jayco John West/VIS) were equal on eight points.
On day three the tour left the Limestone Coast and travelled in-land to the wine region of Penola, around 383 kilometres south-east of Adelaide. The day began with a 39 kilometre criterium around a short 1.3km street circuit and was taken out again by a SASI/Callidus rider, this time it was Harry Carpenter who defeated James Fouche (Mobius Future Racing) with Scott Sunderland (Inform Racing) leading the peloton home in third place.
There was drama on the tour’s fifth stage later that day when the race sped back over the border into Victoria. The pace was on early from the time the peloton left Penola and mid-way through the 64km stage, a huge pile-up involving the tour leader saw his nearest rival on the GC, Ryan Cavanagh, taken to Mount Gambier hospital with severe injuries. Cavanagh was later air-lifted to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.
After crashing trying to avoid Cavanagh in front of him, tour leader Crome, got back on a spare bike and finished with the main bunch into Casterton. The stage was won by JML Racing’s, Jake Klajnblat, from Melbourne, in just one hour and 19:13 seconds over SASI/Callidus’s Liam Nolan and Oliver Real Foods, Nicholas Reddish.
With Cavanagh’s unfortunate departure from the tour, Hill now moved into second place behind Crome on the GC with Shaw also moving up into third spot.
Day four of the tour took riders back towards the Victorian coastline and to a stunning location about 25 minutes out of Portland. Cape Bridgewater was the setting for the sixth and penultimate stage of the tour, a 121 km race around four laps of a 29 kilometre circuit.
In windy conditions, five riders soon formed a small break that included Campolina Sprint Points contenders, Monk and Carpenter; also in the group was New Zealander, Ryan Christensen, riding for the Oliver Real Food’s team. Christensen had a day out winning six of the eight hill climbs on offer to take an unassailable lead in that competition into the final day.
Another New Zealander, Nicholas Kergozou (Mobius Future Racing) took out the stage after a 17 rider group escaped the main peloton on the last lap. Missing this break was the tour leader, Sam Crome; however he was aided by some strong riding from his Avanti teammate, Joe Cooper, who powered him back to the front of the race by the time the leaders were sprinting into the finish.
He remained in the leader’s jersey with a lead of just eleven seconds over Hill with Shaw 18 seconds back in third place.
The final stage of the tour was held around the picturesque waterfront of Victoria’s oldest European settlement in Portland. Thirty laps around a 1.6km circuit totalling 48kms had locals and visitors alike glued to the barriers as the more sedate nature watchers observed whales in the bay nearby.
Three riders, Carpenter, Robert Stannard (Mobius Future Racing) and Angus Lyons (Jayco John West/VIS) slipped away nine laps into the criterium. They stayed away for the rest of the race, and as Carpenter cleaned up the sprint points to claim the Campolina Sprint Points Competition, Lyons stitched up the CFMEU Young Rider of the tour competition.
With the gap never exceeding twenty seconds, the peloton controlled by Avanti, made their final swoop on the leaders in the final lap. However, Stannard gave them the slip to take the stage ahead of Scott Sunderland and Carpenter.
The final GC podium positions unchanged with Sam Crome crowned tour winner ahead of Benjamin Hill at eleven seconds and Patrick Shaw eighteen seconds back in third place.
Scott Sunderland won the Campolina Criterium Championship while the leading team was the strong outfit of Avanti Isowhey Sports, led of course, by Crome. It was the first road stage win for Crome and his first in Avanti colours. Avanti team-manager, Andrew Christie-Johnston, has now won the tour four times out of the five times it has been held.
The Tour is part of Cycling Australia's Subaru National Road Series. It continues this Friday with the San Miranda Tour of the King Valley in Victoria's north.
All images by Con Chronis.