Clarke seals second place at the Tour of Taiwan
TAIPEI, Taiwan – Jonny Clarke took home a hard fought second place overall result at the Tour of Taiwan, held March 11 to 15. With UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team’s support, Clarke slipped the yellow jersey over his head on stage three, but eventually lost the lead by just two seconds. Sebastian Haedo, the team’s only sprinter, performed exceptionally, working as a domestique while notching up top three results on several stages.
Haedo, Clarke step up to podium four times
Stage by stage
The stage race opener saw the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team take the start line at Taipei City Hall for a 90 kilometer circuit race.
“The plan was to be safe and lead out Sebastian Haedo in the sprint with our climbers,” Alexandre said. “The stage went according our thoughts and field was all together inside the last 10kms. We didn’t have the best of luck. Six of us flatted and Daniel Jaramillo crashed during the stage, thankfully he was fine.”
Haedo was in a good position until last km when he got boxed in. However, he found a way out on the outside, but with 500 meters to go he hit the barriers and went down. Fortunately, Haedo walked away with minor injuries and was ready to start the second stage.
The next day was a 120-kilometer outing from Taouyan City Hall to Jiaobanshan Park.
“Today didn’t start so well, we missed the first break but I was able to get across with the next group,” Clarke said. “After that I played the game and sat in as we had strong guys in the bunch. I tried an attack with 1 kilometer to go but to no avail. I thought the best thing to do was to lead around the last corner and hope for the best.”
Alexandre said the daily goal was to keep the team as fresh as possible for the second part of the stage. An early break was eventually caught with 10 kilometers left, and Clarke played it smart to finish with a third place on the stage, which bumped him up to third overall.
“I think I’ll more concentrate on my 3rd on GC then the mountains jersey. But the race is still very open, we’ll see,” Clarke said after the stage.
Stage three might have looked straight forward on paper, but according to Clarke, it was full gas all day. Along with his teammate Serghei Tvetcov, Clarke found himself in a large 15-man break that stayed away until the finish.
“Serghei was invaluable today,” Clarke said. “Things stayed together and I ran third in our group sprint, putting me in yellow by 2 seconds. Tomorrow looks very hard, and the GC is very tight, so we’re a long way from home, that said it was a great day for me and the team.”
The team’s aggressive racing and hard work paid off, Alexandre added.
“We had everyone working well and at the end we got two guys in the final move,” Alexandre said. “Have two strong guys like Tsvetkov and Clarke was great for us. They have worked well together and the goal for the day was accomplished. We are excited to defend the jersey but we know it will be hard as there still two long and hard days to come.”
It was all down to the penultimate stage, 166 kilometers with two big climbs along the way.
“We had to save as many guys as we could to the end of the stage,” Alexandre said. “We were going to take risk if necessary but we needed boys in the last 50kms as we knew everything was going to be on us. We put Haedo to the front and he rode 40kms by himself and another 40 kilometers with a Japanese guy to keep the gap close. Great job by him.”
Despite having fresh legs and covering important moves, the GC came down to the last time bonus of the stage.
Yuriya Arashiro (Japan), who was second at two seconds, finished in third place in the stage and earned four seconds, which was enough to take the lead.
“The team did great and worked very hard,” Alexandre said. “So I am very pleased, even if we lost the jersey.”
The Tour of Taiwan concluded with a fairly flat long 192 kilometers route from Pingtung County Hall to Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area. The team took the start line knowing they had to do all they can to protect and hopefully improve Clarke’s overall position. The stage predictably ended with a sprint, and Haedo claimed an impressive second place.
“Haedo ended sprinting very good after pulling all day in yesterday’s stage,” Alexandre said.
The next test on the racing calendar is the Joe Martin Stage Race, held in mid-April.