After three consecutive second place finishes Dylan Kennett of St George Continental Cycling finally took his first stage win of the Tour of Taihu Lake 2019; thus extending his overall lead in the race.
Stage 2 of the Tour of Taihu Lake saw another close-run finish deny Dylan Kennett his first stage win of this year’s race; with Matteo Pelucchi of Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec taking top honours. Bonus second picked up along the course meant that Kennett ended the 101km stage in Hufuzhen with a 12 second lead over prologue winner Mathias Brändle of Israel Cycling Academy, with Kennett’s teammate Michael Vink in third overall at 20 seconds.
The third stage from Huzhou to Changxing was another flat outing of 117km in length, featuring three intermediate sprints with the first of them occurring after 13km of racing. Racing was kept intense as St George Continental Cycling Team marked the breakaway attempts closely. At the first sprint Kennett narrowly took maximum points ahead of Itamar Einhorn of Israel Cycling Academy and Boris Vallée of Wanty-Gobert.
At sprint number 2 Kennett was denied top spot by a powerful charge from Roy Eefting and instead picked up 2 seconds for second place across the line; so far giving him 5 seconds in bonus time before the finish.
After the second sprint Oscar Sevilla of Medellin went on a solo attack, breaking clear of the peloton that finally relinquished its clutches on the front of the race. He didn’t get far up the road though, with just a slender 19 second lead over the bunch with 55km to go. As seems to be the way in the Tour of Taihu Lake, a breakaway never seemed to last long and it wasn’t long before he was brought back, first by a small chase group and then by the main field.
Approaching the final intermediate sprint, however, bonus points looked like they would be taken by the breakaway riders who had formed just before the sprint. Daniel Turek of Israel Cycling Academy went up the road with Róbigzon Leandro Oyola of Medellin, with the Czech rider taking first place across the line and a two-up move behind them mopping up the remaining points. In that move was Mohamad Saari Amri Abd Rasim of Team Sapura Cycling. After he’d taken third place he dropped his companion and bridged across to the leaders.
St George Continental Cycling rallied well behind them but had allowed them to build a lead of just over a minute with a little under 30km to go. Steadily they chipped away at the break’s lead and with 20km to go their lead was down to 40 seconds. Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec aided the chase effort and so too did the riders from GIANT Cycling Team; while the Israel Cycling Academy, Sapura, Wanty-Gobert and Novo Nordisk all paid close attention to the goings on at the front of the race.
With 10km remaining the break’s advantage had dropped to 15 seconds with Burgos-BH moving towards the head of the race as Matt Zenovich led the charge on the front of the peloton. Dylan Kennett, in the orange leader’s jersey was never far from the front, with the long straight roads making it a case of advantage chasers as they had the survivors of the break – Oyola and Turek – well within their sights.
5km from the finish the break were finally caught and it was all on for the sprint. Kennett still had four teammates with him, lining him up for the finale and hopefully a first sprint win; while Anroni Giocattoli-Sidermec, Burgos-BH and Novo Nordisk fought for the front as well.
Gradually though it was Israel Cycling Academy and Novo Nordisk who took over from Kennett’s men, with the overall leader managing to hold his position as the two teams took over the pace-setting ahead of him with 1km to go. Kennett had Pelucchi on his wheel and sat 9th wheel with 900m to go. With less than 500m to go Israel Cycling Academy hit for home, winding up the sprint and looking a bit like they might have caught Kennett out late on. The Kiwi had to weave his way around a few riders but he surged down the side of the road powerfully in what turned ou to be another photo finish between four riders.
Kennett knew he had the win though, with around half a wheel back to Mihkel Räim of Israel Cycling Academy and Youcef Reguigui of Terengganu Cycling Team, with Roy Eefting of Memil – CCN Pro Cycling in fourth.
The result means that Kennett’s overall lead extends to 27 seconds over Brändle with Räim now in third place ahead of Vink with Matt Zenovich, Ryan Cavanagh and Blake Quick of St George Continental Cycling 10th, 11th and 12th respectively to keep the team in the lead of the team classification. Quick currently also sits just 1 second shy of the lead in the young rider classification, with Kennett also leading the points classification.