A marked contrast hung over today’s final Tour de Taiwan stage. While the profile of the 126 kilometre parcours around Kaohsiung suggested no other possibility than a bunch sprint, the points jersey and general classification leaders had time advantages so tenuous that the entire race was wide open.
Note: As of stage 2, Cycling iQ has no longer been on-site in Taiwan. The below report and provided photos have been provided by the Tour de Taiwan organising committee. In the case of stage 2 and 3 reports, some spell-checking was applied, but the reports were otherwise left “as is” for authenticity. Reports for stages 4, 5 and 6 were heavily edited and modified, as is todays. Image credits: PhotoSport International].
Kam Po Wong (HKG) started the stage in the blue jersey of best Asian rider but, crucially, was also a mere two seconds in arrears to Drapac’s Rhys Pollock, attired in race leader’s yellow. Nutrixxion Abus’ Dirk Müller lurked only four seconds back from Wong. In the points classification, Lee Rodgers (RTS Racing) and Chun Kai Feng (Action Cycling Team) were tied on 23 points each, with two intermediate sprints yet to be contested. In Feng’s case, the polka dot jersey was already secure on his shoulders, as the last KOM had been contested in yesterday’s Tainan stage.
Predictably, Rodgers and Feng stuck to each other with glue-like tenacity – neither rider wishing to leave any opportunity to chance. After 38 kilometres of racing, Feng bolted through the first intermediate sprint in first place to gain the maximum five points, with Rodgers yielding three. Rodger’s breakaway companion of the last few days, Shinichi Fukushima (Terengganu Cycling Team), and Volodimir Gustov (Saxo Bank) absorbed the remaining points on offer
Halfway through the stage the two points classification contenders held a steady 1:35 lead over the bunch. The duo worked as part of a small group, which included Yeung Ying Hon (Hong Kong Team), Cameron Wurf (Champion System) and Gustov (Team Saxo Bank).
Cruelly, Feng experienced a mechanical problem before the now four-man breakaway arrived at the last intermediate sprint, at 72.8 kilometres. Feng’s misfortune was Rodgers fortune, as he was able to sail through the second sprint with no need to look over his shoulder.
With the KOM and points jersey now decided – and the Asian rider’s jersey basically guaranteed to Wong, barring mishap – only the yellow jersey remained open for taking. Having reeled in the breakaway, the bunch was all together coming into the last turn before the sprint. At this point, with 500 metres remaining, Pollock’s was sent crashing to the tarmac. Though not the finest way to finish the stage, it was no cause for concern; given all riders who crash within the last three kilometres of a stage are awarded the same time as the winner.
Saxo Bank’s Jonathan Cantwell took out the seventh stage, lending his team – the only WorldTour team in the race – some credibility, given the high-profile Danish squad finished the race outside of the top three teams in aggregate time.
STAGE 7 RESULTS
1. Lee Rodgers (RTS Racing Team) 31pts
2. Chun Kai Feng (Action Cycling Team) 28pts
3. Chan Jae Jang (Terengganu Cycling Team) 18pts
1. Chun Kai Feng (Action Cycling Team) 19pts
2. Shinichi Fukushima (Terengganu Cycling Team) 16pts
3. Victor Corridor (Azad University Cross Team) 15pts
ASIAN RIDER CLASSIFICATION
1. Kam Po Wong (Hong Kong National Team)
2. Taiji Nishitani (Japan National Team) @ 0:06″ behind Wong
3. Chun Kai Feng (Action Cycling Team) @ 0:25″ behind Wong
1. Japan National Team (JPN) @ 57:31:09
2. Androni Giocattoli (ITA) @ 57:31:45
3. Drapac Cycling (AUS) @ 57:32:13