2012 Tour Down Under stage winner Will Clarke has given his Champion System Pro Cycling team a much-needed victory in its home region, winning today’s Tour of Japan prologue in Sakai. Better yet, teammate Cameron Wurf placed second, cementing the Chinese team’s favourite status on merit of its second-division cachet.
Images: Sonoko Tanaka
The one-two from Clarke and Wurf really was a case of double happiness for Champion System’s sponsor, the Hong Kong-based cycle clothing manufacturer of the same name. Not only did Champion System land two riders on the podium today, it also supplied leader’s jerseys to the race (and pretty much every other UCI-sanctioned road cycling race in Asia).
Asia’s only ProContinental squad wasn’t able to claim Clarke’s surprise WorldTour stage win in Australia earlier this year, as it came whilst he was “on loan” to the UniSA team. Regardless, Clarke’s Tour of Japan rivals should take note of how the Tasmanian rider sealed that Tour Down Under stage two victory in Stirling; by way of a stunning long-range attack, in which he held off an entire peloton (containing Grand Tour stage winners) for 148 kilometers – of which the last half was on his own. In other words, not only can Clarke win stages in big races, he can do it whilst grinding down an entire field of the world’s best cyclists, solo.
With four of Tour of Japan’s remaining five stages looking best suited to a bunch sprint, Clarke’s team will need to do more than just guard the field with an iron fist for the remainder of the week in order to keep the green leader’s jersey – bonus time won in bunch kicks will quickly erode the few seconds currently between Clarke and sprinters such as Max Richeze (Team Nippo) and Anthony Giacoppo (Genesys Wealth Advisors). Champion System has come to Japan to win, so the team may again need to call on Clarke to repeat his feat from January.
Tour of Japan’s 160.7 kilometer second stage kicks off on Tuesday, so all teams will have the opportunity to fine-tune game plans during tomorrow’s transfer to Mino in Gifu Prefecture, 250km to the northeast of Sakai.
Individual General Classification (Green jersey): William Clarke (Champion System Pro Cycling Team)
Points Classification (Blue jersey): William Clarke (Champion System Pro Cycling Team)
King of the Mountains Classification (Red jersey): N/A
Teams General Classification: Champion System Pro Cycling Team
STAGE 1 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE ONE