Aussie Howson wins Jayco Herald Sun tour

Damien Howson, riding in his fi’zi:k R1B shoes to maximum effect, won the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in Australia on Sunday. The 24-year-old Australian retained the lead he’d carved out on Thursday to record one of the biggest wins of his career. The victory continued Orica-Scott’s rich vein of form in Australia’s oldest stage race, this being their third GC victory in four years.

Howson rode himself into yellow on the opening stage and retained a 38-second lead over Jai Hindley as the riders lined up for Sunday’s fourth and final stage. Three-time Tour de France victor Chris Froome (fi’zi:k Antares saddle and Team Sky), making his season debut, sat in sixth 1:12mins behind, while new teammate Kenny Elissonde (fi’zi:k saddles) lay third 53 seconds behind Howson. Despite Sky launching a multitude of attacks and Ian Stannard (fi’zi:k Arione R1) taking the day’s stage, Howson finished comfortably in the group of main contenders to record an outstanding triumph.

‘It’s a big sigh of relief,’ Howson said after the race. ‘It’s been an amazing week… It comes with a lot of honor [to win the Sun Tour]. There are many prestigious names on that list.’

Elsewhere in Europe, Froome’s major rival in preventing a historic fourth Tour triumph, Nairo Quintana (fi’zi:k Antares), showed strong early-season form with GC victory at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in Valencia. The foundation to the diminutive Columbian’s success was laid on Saturday’s queen stage when Quintana attacked on the lower slopes of the Mas de la Costa, which featured pitches of over 22%, to solo to a 40-second victory over Merhawi Kudus (fi’zi:k Arione R1 saddle and Dimension Data).

The stage victory gave Quintana a 13-second lead over Ben Hermans and 32 seconds over Manuel Senni (both fi’zi:k Arione R1 saddles and BMC Racing), respectively, which he held on Sunday’s final stage, which was shortened to 35km due to high winds.