AMANDA Spratt is just 42.5km away from a third consecutive Women’s Tour Down Under title after her team Mitchelton-Scott dominated the third stage to Stirling yesterday.
Recruit and newly crowned national time trial champion Grace Brown won the 104km stage from Nairne in the Adelaide Hills from Trek-Segafredo’s Ruth Winder and UniSA’s Rachel Neylan, as Mitchelton-Scott filled three of the top five placings — including Spratt, who retained the ochre jersey.
With a 49-second overall lead from teammate Lucy Kennedy, all Spratt has to do is finish today’s criterium in the city’s east end to secure another TDU victory.
But yesterday belonged to 26-yearold Brown, who attacked on the uphill finish in Stirling and won by two seconds after doing a power of work for her team.
“It was the team plan for me and Gracie (Elvin) to have a go in the final here and it’s really awesome after all the hard work that I get a victory myself,” Brown said.
“It was a really hard day actually, much harder than I was expecting.
“I think my legs are feeling it from the past two days and there was a little bit of doubt, especially after the neutralisation, I felt a bit dead. But I think everyone felt it.
“I have got family and friends here watching so it’s really cool to do that in front of them.”
There was drama inside the final 12km when the bunch went the wrong way and the race was neutralised before the peloton regrouped for a sprint finish.
TDU race director Mike Turtur — who is not responsible for the women’s tour — said the situation was managed as best as possible.
“It’s an organiser’s worst nightmare,” Turtur said. “It’s happened to us previously, many years ago. It happened on the (Cadel) Evans race a couple of years back … it’s one of those things.
“It’s unfortunate, (but) it’s normally dealt with in a way that no one is disadvantaged, so I’m sure that happened today.”
Spratt, who won a silver medal in the world championship road race last year, said she was thrilled for Brown to win the stage and was hoping for smooth sailing on today’s final stage.
“Most of the stage they (teammates) were controlling it and making sure nothing dangerous got up the road, which was perfect,” she said.
“Then we said in the final we really wanted to work for Grace and Gracie and actually Grace had already done a monster amount of work on the front in that final 10km and just never died in the lead-out.
“Grace has been so strong in all of the races so far and such a great teammate so I am really happy for her.”
Spratt survived a scare in the final stage criterium last year when she crashed but didn’t lose any time and managed to defend the leader’s jersey. [email protected]
Grace Brown celebrates her victory in Stage 3 of the Women’s Tour Down Under from Nairne to Stirling. Picture: GETTY IMAGES