He spoke, but Joy Handley is now walking away holding the yellow jersey in the explosive second leg of the Joyco Herald Sun Tour.
Handley, who did not hide his desire for the title, survived the defeat of the Falls Creek summit after a distance of 97.6km, with Damien Hausen and Sebastian Berwick in a three-man arm.
But the title turned into a competition when Simon Yates, the favorite of the title, was dropped six kilometers away from a narrow front group.
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Star Britt stepped back from the field with 10km remaining in the tactical action of the suspected competitors in the beginning, but it soon became apparent that the Spanish champion was struggling in the Tour Tour of the Tour.
By the end, Yates had lost about six minutes in the general classification, effectively blowing him away from the debate, and broadening Australia’s oldest stage race.
Team SunWeb’s Hyundai is now top of the general classification by four seconds ahead of Mitchelton-Scott’s Howson, while young Queensland surfer Paquette Berwick (St. George’s Continental) is six seconds behind in third.
The last time Herald Sun came to Falls Creek in 2017 was second behind Hindle Hossain, but three years later he was thrilled to reverse his hometown script.
“I really lost something for the words. I really like this pin, “said Hindley.
“I have family who live in Mount Beauty and they are here today so it’s nice to see them on a good ride.”
Howson admits that his mind went back to glory three years ago.
“Richie (Port) from the Tour Down Under came along as king of Willunga, it would have been nice to put himself there as King of Falls Creek, but that wasn’t supposed to happen,” he joked.
Howson was ready to play his usual domestic role in support of Yates, but was promoted half way to Falls Creek when it became clear Yates was in pain.
“It was a tough phase and very tightly run. Unfortunately Simon didn’t have a great day so (sports director) Matt Wilson tried to get me to try something,” Howson said.
“I was told about the change in my role and that the position of the second wheel was not the position I wanted, but I didn’t want to leave everything behind (so I had to leave my time).
“This last 300m was a relentless endeavor. I could taste the win, but at the same time I knew it was going to be a big effort.
“It’s nice to be around the mark and this is what we have to play in the remaining three days of this tour.”
Friday is the longest day of the Stage 3 competition – a 178.1km trek from Bright to Wangaratta which can be a dangerous day for competitors.