InForm MAKE rider Raphael Freienstein took the overall victory in the 2018 Tour of Gippsland earlier this month. The German native sealed victory on the mythical Mt Baw Baw after a criterium heavy opening three days.
The opening stage of the 2018 Tour of Gippsland was a kermesse around the Phillip Island race circuit, in ideal racing conditions. Freienstein and Jason Lea (Bennelong Swiss Wellness Cycling Team) established the major breakaway of the day, amalgamating their forces which aided the duo in helping themselves to the lion share of the intermediate time bonuses on offer in the 102.3km stage.
With three laps to go, the pair were caught and the peloton were headed for a sprint finish on the home straight normally reserved for the MotoGP royalty of Rossi et al.
This time, it was Craig Wiggins (Mobius Bridgelane) who was greeted by the chequered flag first. Freienstein finishing 13th on the stage, having already picked up 14 seconds of time bonuses in the process. By day’s end, Freienstein sat fifth on the general classification and the foundations were in place for an assault at the overall victory.
Stage 1 highlights
Stage 2 was a 60km criterium around Traralgon, it was here where Freienstein went on a time bonus raid. He found himself in an early move that included Nicholas White (Oliver’s Real Food Racing) and Ayden Toovey (Bennelong Swiss Wellness Cycling Team). With the firepower present in the breakaway, the task was going to be steep for the peloton to reel the leaders in on the testing course around the streets of the city in the Latrobe Valley.
The breakaway managed to stay clear to pick up the three intermediate bonuses with Freienstein claiming maximum points in two sprints, moving himself into the virtual race lead.
Like at Phillip Island, all the attackers were caught, and the reduced peloton headed for another dicey sprint finish and it was Theo Yates (Drapac EF) who took the chocolates ahead of White and Freienstein. Third on the stage, and the accumulation of time bonuses throughout the opening stages saw Freienstein move into the leader’s Yellow Jersey by 18 seconds.
Stage 2 highlights
A flat 1.2km criterium circuit around Sale greeted the riders for stage 3, again, in sunny conditions for the 48km dash. It was a cagey stage with time bonuses being the focus of the day’s play. InForm MAKE rode gallantly for the Yellow Jersey, keeping the race in check for the three intermediate sprints. Like he had in the previous two stages, Freienstein was a major player, picking up time bonuses in two of the three sprints on offer.
The final sprint for stage honours belonged to White, who ended his long run of podium finishes. Tristan Ward (Bennelong Swiss Wellness Cycling Team) was second and the consistent Freienstein was third. White’s win saw Freienstein’s overall lead get slashed to just 7 seconds heading into the final stage.
Stage 3 highlights
The two were set lock horns on the slopes of Mt Baw Baw in a savage 4.7km mountain time trial to decide who would win the 2018 Tour of Gippsland.
“Baw Baw is a brutal and unique climb. I’ve raced up it once and ridden it once in training. You can lose a lot of time in the short 4.7k and going into the last stage with only a seven second gap over Nick White wasn’t much at all,” Freienstein said.
The stage was made for a battle royal between Freienstein and White and it really was a genuine nail biter with the pair finishing second and third respectively on the stage.
White won the battle, topping Freienstein by just one second but it was the InForm MAKE rider who won the war, climbing like a home sick angel to take the overall victory by six seconds over White.
“I wasn’t really confident to hold the lead but I just focused on the last effort and tried to have a good rhythm up the climb.”
“It was a relief to win the tour overall. I’ve placed second overall multiple times and winning a NRS tour was one of my goals for this year.”
The stage victory went to Connor Brown (Mobius Bridgelane) who emerged from the misty 20 % slopes fastest in a winning time of 19.23, at an average speed of 14.5 km/h, highlighting the severity of the climb.
Consistency was the key for Freienstein here, and when asked where the difference was made he looked all the way back to stage 1, saying that Phillip Island is where the winning margin was gained.
“I had a hard first day of the tour at Phillip Island when I spent 90km with Jason Lea in the break. Those bonus seconds I picked up during that stage, and the two criteriums were probably the difference in the end.”
Stage 4 highlights
Final general classification
1st: Raphael Freienstein (InForm MAKE) 5h07:36
2nd: Nicholas White (Oliver’s Real Food Racing) + 6 seconds
3rd: Connor Brown (Mobius Bridgelane) + 54 seconds