We are off and racing in the 2014 tour of taiwan. The race kicked off today in the heart of Taipei with a snazzy little 50km hour of power critirium. The circuit was positioned to pass some of taipei's most famous building's such as its acclaimed Taipei 101 which when originally built held the mantel of the tallest building in the world. It certainly still cuts an imposing impressive figure today. Racing in asia always guarantees 2 things, an extremely enthusiastic and patriotic crowd, and secondly exciting seemingly out of control bike racing that ensures the crowd enthusiasm never dwindles throughout the race! The noise of the supporters is often deafening which appears to particularly motivate the home town riders who always ensure a great show of a bike race is put on. So when you add in some rain, technical corners and a fresh peleton for stage 1, there was always going to be plenty of nervous action for todays stage.
The Cannondale boys had a pretty simple plan today, ensure the Boivin, our canadian cannonball had a shot at a bunch sprint. Being the only world tour team at the race meant all teams were naturally looking to us to take responsibility and we were certainly hoping we could take responsibility despite only being 5 rider teams. The first objective was to ensure a small manageable breakaway formed and from there we could control the race to ensure a bunch sprint. The course was extremely wet thanks to the constant drizzly rain and with road marking paint, cast iron cats eyes, and a section of cobbles stones, the course had the potential to be extremely dangerous. We figured best way to stay safe was stay on the front so that's exactly what we did from the get go. So really considering the conditions we now had 2 objectives, give Boivin the best possible chance to sprint for the win and secondly get all our guys across the finish line aboard there bicyles and with all there skin intact. So with that being said we set up camp on the front of the bunch and took control of the race.
Today was an exciting day for as it was my first opportunity to race with 2 of our new riders, jean marc marino, and davide formolo. Jean marc is from france and is an absolute legend, full of experience and always a calming presence around the group. Even after only spending 50km racing with him today I am really excited about riding alongside him this season. Davide Formolo is another of our super young talents new to the team this year. Davide caught my attention at the team camp as he oozed natural talent but also had the work ethic and dedication driving him to be as good as he could possibly be. I often through in a few extra sessions at team camp in the afternoons in the gym where I am often alone. Davide become a daily companion for me on these gym sessions as he was putting in the extra hours in order to develope his core stability which only recently had he began to take seriously. It was awesome to see how focused he was and how much he improved in this area over those 2 weeks in riotorto. Ever since I have been waiting in anxious anticipation to race alongside him as I am pretty confident he will be one of my most favourite team mates. Sure enough and again after only 50km together in the bunch today my hunch was confirmed and Davide is every bit the awesome team mate I had anticipated.
From the gun we took control with jean marc and formolo setting pace on the front of the bunch. The idea was pretty simple to use these guys to control the race and then use Ted and I to ensure Boivin was in the right position saving energy all day and where he needed to be inside the final km. Everything went to plan from the gun and with 5km to go we were in great position.
First jean marc and davide increased the pace before handing the baton to me. I cranked things up for a couple of km and inside the final km boivin was nicely settled in the front few riders. The final 500m had 3 corners so I was in no mood to take any risks and put on the reverse lights and waited for the inevitable crashes.
As motivated as I am everytime I race, some days you have to pick your battles and certainly playing argy bargy today and increasing the risk of crashing was the last thing I was going to do. I was either on the front or out of harms way and nothing in between. We still have a long season ahead so once boivin was in position and I was not losing any General Classification time I put up the white flag. Sure enough the cobbles around 300m to go claimed a handfull of victims as they came crashing down. Fortunately Boivin was just ahead and poised for a fast and furious finish. In the end our canadian cannonball would finish 4th after being swamped a little by a couple of riders who were prepared to tackle the wet cobbles much more aggressively than others, basically take a big risk but reap the reward! Having said that I am happy boivin was up the front and stayed upright, he will have plenty more opportunities over the next few days. So day one is done and dusted. The team worked really well and is full of enthusiasm. Racing in asia is quite a noval experience and we are all determined to enjoy it as much as possible. Also we are excited to get the potentially dangerous day today out of the way and look forward to some longer stages and some more selective terrain.
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