The Gunns Plains stage of the Spirit of Tasmania Cycling Tour is traditionally the most exciting and unpredictable stage of the race, and this year was no different. The riders rolled out of Ulverstone in perfect conditions for the 70.5 kilometre stage en-route to Riana. The short, lumpy stage provided the perfect theatre for an aggressive day and it didn’t take long for the riders to sink their teeth into the stage.
After a fast start, a strong breakaway group of ten riders found themselves off the front of the peloton. Included in the move were InForm MAKE duo Tom Jones and Carter Turnbull. The break was given some rope by the peloton until fourth place on the GC, Oliver Martin (BCT) and InForm MAKE’s Rudy Porter bounced across to the breakaway. With the presence of Martin, Bennelong SwissWellness invested some resources to pin back the breakaway which had got out to almost a minute lead. After the hard chase from the peloton, the race was back together and the attacks started again.
InForm MAKE’s Stuart Smith was in the next major group of ten riders that got some slack from the peloton. Before the final climb of the day, Raphael Freienstein jumped across the 30 second gap to join Smith and the other escapees. The National Road Series Leader collected the maximum bonus at the second intermediate sprint. With the points secured, the German native settled back into the Smith led group and recovered for the final test of the day. With Freienstein attached to the back of the lead group, the experienced Smith drove the breakaway to stretch the gap out to 50 seconds at the base of the Gunns Plains climb.
With Smith’s work done, Freienstien took up the pace in a bid to keep the yellow jersey group at bay. Receiving no help from the other riders in the breakaway, Freiensteins gap was slowly reduced by Michael Vink, Oliver Martin and Dylan Sunderland who were chasing hard from the splintering peloton. Freienstein was first over the climb, picking up both KOM points and bonus seconds, while the other major GC players were still trailing.
After chasing frantically, the yellow jersey group made contact with the front group with roughly nine kilometers to go, a sigh of relief for those who had just made the junction. With five kilometres to go, Rudy Porter and Carter Turnbull caught the lead group and 20 riders were headed to Riana for a reduced bunch sprint.
Rudy Porter threw a cat amongst the pigeons, attacking with two kilometres to go that forced Rabble Continental Cycling Team to pin the young Victorian back into the group. Carter Turnbull led out the fast, downhill sprint until Freienstein launched a perfectly timed sprint to take the win, with Rudy Porter holding on for 9th.
“It’s a great feeling winning a stage in the NRS leaders jersey. We were in every breakaway today so the win is a great reward for the effort the whole team put in today,” Freienstein said moments after crossing the line.
The difficulty of the stage and his heavy involvement in the key points of the day highlight the quality of Porter’s top ten today.
“It was a real tough one, the pace was hot from the start. On Gunns Plains it split to pieces, Carter and I were in a small group that caught Raph’s group before the finish so it was great to be in the front group,” Porter said.
The final stage of this year Spirit of Tasmania Cycling Tour takes place on the Devonport foreshore for a 54 kilometre criterium. A fast, flat course will provide an exciting finale to this year’s edition. With the sprint jersey and the overall podium still up for grabs, another important day of racing for InForm MAKE looms tomorrow.
“We will look to give our young riders an opportunity if we can. It will be great to see David Williams sew up the sprint jersey competition. If we can’t get anyone up the road we will have Raph to have a crack at the final sprint,” InForm MAKE team manger Pat Lane said, talking about his teams ambitions for the fourth and final stage tomorrow.
2018 Spirit of Tasmania Cycling Tour Stage 3 results
1st - Raphael Freienstein (InForm MAKE) 1h44:59
2nd - Dylan Sunderland (BSC) +0
3rd - Nicholas White (OLI) +0
9th – Rudy Porter (InForm MAKE) +0
General Classification after stage 3
1st- Dylan Sunderland (BSC) 6h31:42
2nd - Michael Vink (BCT) +11
3rd - Cameron Roberts (GPM) +19
4th - Raphael Freienstein (InForm MAKE) +25