The High5 Dream Team finished off the Tour of East Gippsland in style, capping off a strong tour with a 1-2 on the final stage and also securing Lucy Kennedy’s 4th position on the general classification.
It had been an active day in the saddle with the peloton wary about letting any riders get too much advantage and the pace was almost always quite a quick one over the undulating course. Riders were shelled off the back in the race of attrition but the High5 Dream Team had their full complement coming into the uphill bunch sprint, launching off the front. Sam de Riter came off Lucy Kennedy’s wheel to power to the win, with Kennedy holding on for second to complete a memorable 1-2.
After the race Sam de Riter was understandably pleased to have claimed her first individual win since 2013, though she wasn’t certain of it until she crossed the finish line.
“I wasn’t sure that I was going to win,” said de Riter, “not until I crossed the line. Lucy must have still had some energy as she was shouting at me to keep going and I thought someone was going to catch me! So there was no salute, I was too keen to get across the line.”
It was a late change to the plan that saw de Riter sprinting for the win, getting a bit mixed up in the sprint train but fighting through for the victory.
“Jess had a bit of a sprint yesterday and did pretty well so we were hoping to give her and Lucy a go. Lucy was going to go early and myself and Ruby were planning the leadout. I got stuck behind Lucy instead of in front of her and it looked like she wasn’t going to kick again so I took the opportunity to go around her as everyone was looking from the other side. Thankfully I managed to hold them off.”
“I’ve been doing some track and weights so I’ve got some strength finally. I can’t really go the distance but the race wasn’t too long. I sat in for most of it, there weren’t many decisive climbs so we were basically there for the stage win and we did that, so I’m pretty happy.”
The overall team performance was another highlight of the week for de Riter with Jessica Pratt and Ruby Roseman-Gannon, the new additions to the team, fitting in well with the squad.
“We came in with just the four of us, some new girls and we were just looking to see how we ride and work together. It was a weekend to test ourselves rather than expect too much. Everyone had an opportunity for themselves as well as to help their teammates.
The High5 Dream Team also had cards to play in the general classification battle on the final stage with Lucy Kennedy sitting in fourth position going into the final stage after a strong time trial performance that had her sitting just five seconds off the overall lead. After the race, Kennedy was very happy with the stage win if slightly disappointed in the overall result.
“We knew the course didn’t have a lot in it to help us move up,” said Kennedy. “The hills weren’t really going to be enough to get away. The only hope was the finish and we thought that might be tough enough if we had a really, really good finish that we’d maybe be able to put some seconds in but it didn’t quite work out. Obviously it was a really good stage for us and I think we executed the sprint well and we’re very happy.”
“It was a bit of a role reversal, it was meant to be Ruby and Sam leading me out but I think the way it worked out was better. Sam had really good legs for that finish and I was happy to be able to hang on for second.”
In a three-stage Tour it was always going to be hard to flip even a few seconds advantage without particularly hard climbing or bonus seconds on offer.
“I came into the Tour thinking that the time trial was going to be decisive,” said Kennedy, “and it was really tight there at the top with only six seconds in it. Unfortunately with no time bonuses the TT was the most important stage but I went in knowing that and I should have done a better TT if I wanted to win.”
The High5 Dream Team will next race at the Oceania Championships with a block of National Road Series events not long after in what will be an important spell of racing for riders and teams that want to challenge for the overall series victory.
“The next block should be a lot of fun. I think there’s three weekends in a row of racing and a bit of excitement with Battle on the Border and Mersey Valley coming. There’s some hills as well for me so hopefully I can show a bit more of myself there,” concluded Kennedy.