Australia's Damien Howson wins Herald Sun Tour

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) " Australia's Damien Howson held on to his overall lead to win the Herald Sun cycle tour on Sunday, repelling the challenge of three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome.

Britain's Ian Stannard won Sunday's fourth and final stage over 121 kilometers (75 miles), just north of Melbourne, outlasting New Zealand's Aaron Gate, with Howson finishing close enough behind to retain his 38 second overall lead.

"It's a big sigh of relief now," Howson said. "Tt's been an amazing week and to finish it off the way we did, I couldn't be happier."

Froome, riding for Britain's Team Sky, started the last stage more than a minute behind Howson but was unable to make up any time despite launching a late challenge, which Howson and his Orica-Scott teammates covered.

Both riders crossed the line together in the same reduced peloton with Froome finishing the Tour in sixth position overall.

Howson started the Tour with the intention of helping his Colombian teammate Esteban Chaves win but Orica-Scott changed tactics and threw their support behind the Australian when he took out Thursday's opening road stage at Falls Creek.

"I definitely was nervous (but) every lap that went by I became more calm," Howson said.

"Every time we had the full team coming through the finish line I knew as long as I had Esteban with me on that final climb, that it was going to be pretty simple to control.

"Everyone just went further than they needed to and made my day as easy as possible."

Howson said he expected Froome and Team Sky to throw everything at him on Sunday.

"I was probably expecting them to light it up one lap earlier than they did, to really make or break the race," he said. "But once again, my team had it covered and it was pretty simple in the finish."

Australia's Jai Hindley finished second overall with Frenchman Kenny Elissonde third.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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