The US champion wins the penultimate stage and overtakes the leader's jersey in the Santos Tour Down Under
Ruth Winder finished second in the same finish at the Santos Tour Down Under in 2019 and knew precisely what not to do to win the race one year later.
“I learned from last year to not start the lead-out too soon,” said Winder. “We started our lead-out too early last year, and Mitchelton (Scott) came up our outside. This year Tayler (Wiles) listened to me the whole time in the leadout, and she did it perfectly.
“You want to be the first wheel and really gun it, but you really need to hold back, hold back until you feel the rush, and Tayler did a beautiful job today. When I saw the finish line, I went as hard as I could and managed to hold everyone off.”
Winder sprinted to the win and into the ochre leader’s jersey by seven seconds with one stage remaining in the four-day race.
I saw 300 meters to go, and I said, 'do not go yet Ruth!'
While Mitchelton-Scott had the onus to do most of the work in stage three in defending Amanda Spratt’s race lead, Trek-Segafredo patiently and tactically played out its cards, leaving their ace for the end. It worked out better than expected.
“Today was amazing to watch the team come together, especially after Ruth was second here last year when we misjudged the finish,” explained director Ina Teutenberg. “After we saw Ruth’s strong ride yesterday and knowing today’s finish, we knew we had a good chance for the win. But to also take over the jersey, we never dreamed that this would happen today.
“The team worked hard, kept Ruth safe, and made sure the breakaway came back. Lotta (Henttala) covered the early attacks and got in the break, Trixi (Worrack) and Anna (Plichta) did the middle part, and Tayler just protected Ruth at the end – we were always on top of the situation today. Then Ruth finished it off with a perfect sprint.”
It was concerning coming here; I felt we were just coming for a bike race, and there was so much tragedy going on, but it was really encouraging to see so many people standing outside their houses and cheering on the race.
The team’s sprinter, Lotta Henttala, jumped into the early six-rider breakaway, but everyone knew it would most likely be decided on the grueling finish circuits.
When the breakaway was eventually caught, Winder grabbed a bonus second by winning the intermediate sprint over race leader Amanda Spratt. It moved her to within three seconds; a win, even if Spratt finished second, would now net Ruth the race lead.
The game was on.
“Setting myself up well to go for the bonus sprints was important. I didn’t want to kill myself totally for that because it is such a hard final, but I managed to take that,” said Winder.
On the local circuits, Mitchelton-Scott put on the pressure and made the climb to the finish line hard. It pared the bunch to around 30 riders.
Trek-Segafredo held back, waiting. Winder’s prowess was in uphill sprints, and they had learned from their mistake last year.
“The entire team the whole race was very active at the front, covering attacks, and making sure I was safe until the circuits, which were really hard with Mitchelton just drilling it on the climbs,” said Winder. “I felt a lot of confidence from the team, they were putting a lot of faith in me, and uphill sprint finishes really suit me. They always have since I was young.”
Winder navigated Wiles for a perfect lead-out in the last kilometer. It was all she needed.
“Tayler listened to me the whole time in the lead-out today. I had to tell her to go steady a few times, but she set me up really well, ” said Winder. “I saw 300 meters to go, and I said, ‘do not go yet Ruth!’ Then when I looked up, I saw the finish line, and I was like, now or never.”
“It’s special to win. I really love coming here, and especially this year – riding through the burn zone today, you could take a moment to see some of the devastation. It was concerning coming here; I felt we were just coming for a bike race, and there was so much tragedy going on, but it was really encouraging to see so many people standing outside their houses and cheering on the race. I am happy if we can just bring a moment of joy to everyone here,” ended Winder at the press conference to a roomful of cheers.