Bendigo's Peta Mullens surged to a stunning win in Thursday's opening stage of the Santos Festival of Cycling women's road race in South Australia.
Riding for the Roxsolt LIV Sram team, Mullens went into the four-day race with plans to support her team-mates rather than being confident of general classification success.
That thought process might need to change now after she used all her experience to overcome a quality field in the 80.7km stage from Seppeltsfield to Tanunda.
While some of her rivals made moves early in the sprint finish, Mullens stayed patient and made a decisive move in the final 200m.
She surged clear to win comfortably from Ruby Roseman-Gannon and Nicole Frain.
After the 2020 road season was restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mullens said it was exciting to be racing again.
"We've been wanting to get back to racing for a really long time,'' Mullens said.
"I feel like this was the last time that we had a really big bike race. We just wanted to come here and animate the race a little bit.
"I just wanted the girls to feel part of the bike race and I feel like winning it really pays them back."
Mullens will take a two-second advantage into stage two - a 97.3km race from Birdwood to Lobethal.
The stage includes some riding on gravel roads, which will suit Mullens because of her mountain biking and cyclo-cross background.
The 32-year-old is a former Australian road cycling, mountain bike and cyclo-cross champion.
"I didn't come here with GC (general classification) ambitions, so to take the stage is really cool,'' she said.
"I'll try to protect Carlee Taylor for when we get to Willunga (Hill) (on Saturday), so she can show us how she's come out of retirement.
"We've got a bit of gravel tomorrow, which will excite a few of the girls in the team. Hopefully, we can have another really good bike race."
Second placegetter Roseman-Gannon is no stranger to Bendigo cycling fans.
The ARA Pro-Racing team member won the Bendigo Women's Madison in 2018 and 2020.
Meanwhile, in the men's four-day road race, Bendigo is represented by Sam Crome.
The 27-year-old is racing for the St George Continental Cycling Team.
Read more: Peta Mullens talks about her life in cycling
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