Melbourne, Australia, Feb 5 – Young Australian Damien Howson upstaged international stars Chris Froome and Esteban Chaves Sunday, winning the overall Herald Sun Tour ahead of fellow countryman Jai Hindley.
Briton Ian Stannard (Team Sky) crossed the line first on the 121-kilometre (75.2-mile) fourth and final stage in Kinglake in Victoria state, just ahead of New Zealander Aaron Gate (Aqua Blue Sport).
Howson (Orica-Scott), 24, and 20-year-old Hindley (Australian National Team) led the overall standings since stage one on Thursday ahead of third-placed Frenchman Kenny Elissonde (Team Sky).
“I’m really happy to join that list of guys (of former winners including Froome and Bradley Wiggins),” Howson said.
“It’s my first overall win ever. It’s also nice to break into new territory for myself.”
Defending champion and three-time Tour de France winner Froome (Team Sky) hailed the Australian’s efforts to become the overall winner of his country’s oldest stage race.
“Damien Howson was really strong,” said the 31-year-old Briton, who finished sixth in the overall standings.
“He rode a great stage on Falls Creek and has defended the jersey really well.”
Colombian Chaves was ninth in the overall standings.
Froome’s teammate Stannard, 29, attacked following the final climb, opening up a gap that his rivals could not close to take the stage.
“I knew the guys wanted to spice it up behind,” Stannard said.
“I wasn’t sure how I felt. I had a big day chasing that last 30 kilometres yesterday, I went pretty deep and felt not great early and came around towards the end of the race.”
Dutchman Taco Van Der Hoorn (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) crossed the finish line to be third for the stage.
– ‘Change of tactics’ –
Stannard’s victory capped a successful few days for Team Sky, with Luke Rowe also winning stage two of the Tour on Friday.
“We’ve come here and wanted to have some fun and some good racing — that’s what it’s been about and it’s worked well for us,” Stannard said.
Froome said the team had experimented with different tactics this year.
“I think tactically we made some very different choices this year,” he told Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper.
“Everyone came here to ride an aggressive race and not necessarily deliver the typical lead-out train for me that we normally do.
“So at Falls Creek (on stage one) when Kenny went up the road we were happy to sit back and roll the dice and let them have a crack.
But he added: “It didn’t pay off for us and it went in Damien Howson’s favour.”
The climbing and time-trial specialist added that he was happy with starting his 2017 season in Australia, which included competing in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
“The legs were good. I’m just happy to get through the week and have a good block out here,” he said.