Alex Manly wins Stage 2 to take lead in women’s Tour Down Under

Alex Manly (R) leads going into the Tour Down Under's last day after taking stage two on Monday.

Alex Manly (R) leads going into the Tour Down Under's last day after taking stage two on Monday. Photo: AAP

Alex Manly and her team know a fierce challenge from Amanda Spratt will have a big say in whether she wins the women’s Tour Down Under.

Manly stormed to the overall lead on Monday by winning the second stage at Uraidla in the Adelaide Hills.

The 26-year-old Australian holds an eight-second lead in the overall standings before Tuesday’s third and final stage.

That 93.2-kilometre stage from Adelaide to Campbelltown features the tough Corkscrew climb, where Spratt and other rivals are sure to ask stern questions of Manly.

But Manly and her Jayco-AlUla team were outstanding on Monday, with compatriot Ruby Roseman-Gannon in particular setting up the stage win.

Roseman-Gannon played a key role as Spratt, the three-time tour winner and the best-credentialled rider in the field, failed in her bid to blow the race apart.

Spratt (Trek Segafredo) launched a solo attack on the Mt Lofty Climb in the closing kilometres of the undulating 90-kilometre stage from Birdwood.

Roseman-Gannon was instrumental in closing the gap to Spratt, with the select front group of 16 riders then contesting the stage finish.

“We wanted both Ruby and Alex up there in the final and I think that the girls set up the race and the final really well,” team director Martin Vestby said.

“It is going to be really hard tomorrow. It would be a lie to not say that Spratty is climbing really well and can put us under pressure.

“But our strength is the team and we will use that to our best advantage.”

Manly led the lead pack through the last corner with about 250 metres left and powered to the finish ahead of New Zealand’s Georgia Williams (EF Education-TIBCO), with Dutch rider Nina Buijsman (Human Powered Health) third.

Spratt and fellow Australian Grace Brown (FDJ-Suez) also finished in the front group, which leaves Manly’s two biggest rivals for the overall title within striking distance.

Williams is second overall, with Brown third, both eight seconds behind Manly.

Roseman-Gannon is fourth overall at 13 seconds, followed by Spratt at 14 seconds.

Stage one winner and overnight race leader Daria Pikulik lost contact with the front group on Monday, long before the finish.

British rider Claire Steels (Israel Premier Tech) launched an impressive solo attack inside the last 25 kilometres but was caught well before the finish and ended the stage in 23rd place.

Manly had a banner season last year, winning four stages of the Thuringen Tour in Germany as well as the overall title.

She was part of the mixed relay team that won bronze at the road worlds in Wollongong and played her role as outstanding tactics from the Australians set up Georgia Baker for the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games road race.

“To be in the race lead now, it is a dream come true,” Manly said.

“There’s not another race other than the Tour de France that I really want to be in the lead – it means a lot to me.”


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