After winning the opening prologue time trial in the Tour of Taihu Lake, Dylan Kennett of St George Continental Cycling Team has come out on top in stage 4 to Jiangyan. Kennett fended off the challenge of Leonardo Bonifazio of Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini and Burgos-BH’s Daniel López to win the stage.
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Two days in the leader’s jersey after victory in the prologue time trial came to an end in the hilly stage 2 of the Tour of Taihu Lake; but stage 4 afforded Kennett an opportunity to strike again. He’d tried in stage 3 of the race, attempting to infiltrate the early break of the day but to no avail; with the race’s aggressive riding being characteristic of the entire race so far and nullifying his attempts on the stage.
Stage 4 of the Tour of Taihu Lake followed a short out and back course that was just about 12.3km in length to make a total of 98.6km. The course was not too challenging in terms of gradient but there was no shortage of riders willing to throw caution to the wind. With just under 50km to go a group of five riders attacked as Wanty-Groupe Gobert led the peloton for overall leader Boris Vallée. In the group amongst the attackers was Ben Hill of Ljubljana Gusto Xaurum but shortly the race came back together with cooperation a battle for many.
Hill wasn’t to be denied a chance at the break though, pressing onwards and continuing with two others although the peloton persisted with a high intensity to make life very difficult for breakaway attempts. Eventually Manzana Postobon’s Bernardo Suaza was the last man standing up the road, holding just a slender 6 second lead or so coming into 22km to go.
The peloton kept him in their sights and so too did other breakaway candidates, with Matic Grošelj of Ljubljana Gusto Xaurum getting across the gap with 19.7km remaining. Leading the peloton at this stage was Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia; but St George Continental Cycling Team were well positioned with Dylan Kennett lining up for a hopeful shot at the stage honours.
Kennett’s day had already been successful with victory in two intermediate sprints earlier on in the day and now he was finding himself in a strong position to challenge for win. After the two-up breakaway finally fell apart riders warmed up for the final sprint finish with less than 10km remaining. Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia and Wanty-Groupe Gobert led the pack, with St George Continental Cycling Team well positioned.
At 6km to go Wanty-Groupe Gobert had control, with Ljubljana Gusto moving forward alongside Delko-Marseille; although there was plenty of to-ing and fro-ing as the field hit 5km remaining. Attacks weren’t done yet and with 4.6km remaining Ljubljana Gusto’s Matic Grošelj launched up the road with Delko Marseille going in pursuit. Maxence Moncassin continued to set the pace for Wilier Triestina though and despite the duo’s acceleration the race was back together with 3.5km to go.
Eritrea moved forward in the closing stages but it was Delko Marseille who had the lead with 2km as they looked to line up Yannick Martinez. Dylan Kennett was still in a promising position at about 10-12 riders back with 1.5km remaining although there was a bit of pushing and shoving going on. Under the kite Manzano Postobon led the way with Wilier Triestina suddenly seeming to disappear from the front.
The messy sprint eventually saw Dylan Kennett launch from four riders back. The Kiwi accelerated powerfully down the left side of the road, timing his effort to perfection to take the stage win around a bike length ahead of Bonifazio and López. Kenentt crossed the line with arm aloft having done the job in style; taking his second stage win of the race.
Kennett salutes St George team & ‘Morgz’ for perfect positioning
Afterwards Kennett reflected on his win, saying, “It was really, really awesome. I liked the look of the run into the finish; nice and straight. I said to the boys today ‘if there’s ever going to be a day then today’s the day’ and they worked real well, they all took turns helping me and then Morgz [Morgan Smith] positioned me perfectly for the last one and then I had to step out with 200 to go and it was all done.”
St George Continental Cycling Team now find themselves in the great position of having two stages wins under their belt along with second overall for Ben Dyball with three stages remaining. Despite the GC focus for Dyball, the team’s will to win saw them play a brilliant team game to set up Kennett. “The boys just want to win and today it showed with the great teamwork. Not only did they have to look after me but they had to look after Ben [Dyball] as well sitting second on GC and it’s great to pull it off,” Kennett said.
The fact that Manzano Postobon took the initiative with a long way to go, and on a straight sprint, complimented Kennett’s skills; which are still being honed on the road after enjoying so much experience on the track in the endurance programme. “To be honest the Postobon guys are more my style of racing, I like how they lead out hard from a long way out and it suits me better because I don’t have the bunch handling skills yet. So I was just looking for them,” Kennett said.
“I didn’t care where he [Jakub Mareczko] was because I know he’s pretty crafty and if I try staying with him I’m probably not going to get a run. So I wasn’t too worried about him, but I was worried about him in the last 100m because there was a bit of a headwind and I was a sitting duck. It was good, a few laps out we said we wanted to follow those boys and that’s what we did.”