McCarthy a Surprise Winner of Jayco Herald Sun Tour's Stage 3
Migrating to Australia with his family seven years ago from Ireland, McCarthy, who has spent the last couple of domestic seasons in the shadow of Australian sprint wunderkind Caleb Ewan, said this was the most significant win of his fledgling career.
Meanwhile in the general classification, Team GreenEdge’s Clarke preserved his advantage when he was the eleventh rider to cross the finish line, thereby holding on to his eight second lead over former Olympic rower Cameron Wurf (Cannondale Pro Cycling Team).
For Clarke’s teammate Matthew Goss it was a case of what could have been, as a slipped chain at 200 meters to go ended his chances of stage win.
McCarthy too was lucky to be in a position to challenge at the finish, forced to veer off the road to narrowly avoid a crash caused by a clash of wheels that toppled Garmin-Sharp-POC sprint ace Steele Von Hoff and forced Team Australia’s Pat Shaw to abandon 13 kilometers from the stage finish.
In a Herald Sun Tour that was intended as a learning experience for McCarthy, it was the Jayco Australia U23 Team rider that handed his opponents a lesson on getting to the line.
“I knew I have the speed, for me the hard part was just getting to the line with those established lead out trains,” said McCarthy, who’s most significant victory prior to today was a junior national road race title in 2012 ahead of Ewan.
“It’s really hard when you’re not in one of those established teams to earn the respect of those guys, but I hope I have done that now.
“I had to fight really, really hard for position and I decided I was going to be the last guy of someone’s train.”
“I saw Jonathan Cantwell with about one kilometer and a half to go and I just jumped on his wheel and waited and waited, and then moved around maybe 250m to go and just went for it, and held on for the line.”
Admitting himself to being a relative unknown in the race, McCarthy’s reaction to upstaging some of world cycling’s elite in Nagambie was that of shock.
“I know I’m a good sprinter, but when you look at the field here it’s some of the best in the world,” McCarthy said.
“I just came here to try and learn from those guys and I just found myself in a good position.”
“I crossed the line and I couldn’t believe it. I’m a bit speechless to be honest.”
While McCarthy’s post race reaction was that of elation, it was a focussed Clarke that spoke after the stage about his GreenEdge team's defense of his yellow jersey.
“The objective is to keep yellow by the end of tomorrow, so we rode with that tactic,” Clarke said.
“I hardly touched the pedals all day today, the boys did a great job.
“Mitch [Docker] and Damien [Howson] were really strong today and they had everything under control, so no stress for me whatsoever.”
Sticking to the script of execution, Clarke said he would be wary of general classification challengers Wurf and Jack Haig (Avanti Cycling Team), but would be more intent on riding his own race in Sunday’s final 124 kilometer stage.
“We’ll ride to our plan, I’ve got Gerro by my side who is a great climber, so I just need to stick close to him and we’ll work together and work on our team plan,” said Clarke.
“If people attack us, we can adjust that plan, but we’ll be on our own path.
“They’re both dangerous, there’s no reason to decipher who’s going to be more dangerous, they both are.”
Earlier in the stage, seven riders were quick to ride off the peloton at the fall of the flag, joined shortly after by an eighth rider in Kristian Juel of Team Budget Forklifts.
Seemingly lacking the grit and tenacity of yesterday’s break led by Clarke, a catch seemed inevitable, however surprisingly four riders from the initial group held together until the catch occurred inside five kilometers to the finish in Nagambie.
The break held close to four minutes over the main field approaching the foot of the first King of the Mountain classification climb through the Strathbogie Ranges at 55 kilometers travelled, with the break still holding two minutes 40 second advantage at the top of the second King of the Mountain a further 12 kilometers later.
It was the WorldTour teams GreenEdge, Garmin-Sharp-POC and Cannondale Pro Cycling Team that did the bulk of the work on the open roads to reduce the gap to a comfortable margin off the climbs, before really tightening the screws 25 kilometers from home.