The Jayco Herald Sun Tour has wrapped up for 2016, and it was a big week for State of Matter MAAP. The team went in with a strong 6-rider team after a good showing a week earlier at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
First up was The Prologue, a 2.1km course that started in Melbourne’s Federation Square and snaked its way down to Southbank. Jesse Kerrison put in an impressive ride, just keeping the bike upright after brushing a barrier and still managed to finish 11th on the Stage, +5 seconds on winner Will Clarke (Drapac Professional Cycling).
Stage 1 started and finished in Healesville, a 126km loop that was well set up for the climbers. Nick Katsonis made his intentions clear from the start, getting in an early break just 5km in with another 5 riders. Unfortunately, around 60km in and on the descent from the first KOM point, Nick came down on a dangerous left-hand bend. At this point Nick had a break of 4 minutes on the peloton, and thankfully he was able to chase back on and finish in the bunch. Two other riders crashed on the same corner in separate incidents, unfortunately neither of them were able to rejoin the race. Nick’s determination throughout the stage was rewarded with the first Most Aggressive Rider jersey. Both Chris Harper and Mike Cuming were able to finish in the front bunch, +17 seconds on stage winner Peter Kennaugh.
Stage 2 went from Yarra Glen to the rural paradise of Moe, a 144km stage that would ultimately be won by sprint sensation Caleb Ewan. From a State of Matter MAAP perspective, Chris Harper broke away from the peloton after 40km, partnering with Yuma Koishi (Nippo-Vini Fantini) to form a break. The two extended their lead out to a maximum of 5 minutes before Harper dropped the hammer and Koishi and went at it solo. Harper wasn’t caught until 100km into the stage, and not before he took 40 of a possible 44 KOM points for the stage. For this performance Chris earned not only the KOM jersey but also took Nick Katsonis’ Most Aggressive Rider jersey.
Stage 3 (Traralgon to Inverloch) was another big day for State of Matter MAAP, 146km that ended with a thrilling sprint finish. While it was the only day the team didn’t have a rider in the break, the strategy nearly paid handsome dividends as the race came into the final stages. John Murphy (United Health Care) ultimately won the sprint finish, while Jesse Kerrison missed out on 3rd place to Steele von Hoff (OnePro Cycling) by half a wheel. A great ride from Jesse as he positioned himself perfectly on the wheel of Murphy, but it was the more experienced von Hoff who earned the spot on the podium.
Heading into Stage 4, the brutal closing stage that would see the riders ascend Arthurs Seat 3 times, Chris Harper still held the KOM jersey from Chris Froome (Team Sky). It was always going to be a tough ask to hang onto the jersey when the two-time Tour de France champion was riding up the front, but Harper was not going to be intimidated. As the peloton came to the base of the brutal climb for the first time, Harper was sitting on the front surrounded by Team Sky, shoulder-to-shoulder with Chris Froome. 3km at 8% is no easy task at the best of times, but Chris dug deep and with 1km to go was still in the same position he started. 500m to the KOM and he was right there beside Froome, until with 300m to go the Team Sky rider put in a tremendous burst and took the KOM points. From here, Froome dominated the closing stages of the stage and ultimately went on to win the Herald Sun Tour from teammate Peter Kennaugh. All in all, a great week for the team. Chris Harper was the highest GC finisher in 22nd place, +2:34 on Froome, and also finished second in the KOM classification.