Second place in stage 1 of the Tour of Taihu Lake has put Dylan Kennett of St George Continental Cycling Team into the overall lead as he finished second in the stage 1 sprint behind Marco Benfatto of Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec.

After second place in the prologue time trial, Dylan Kennett and his St George Continental Cycling Team went into stage 1, starting and finishing in Wuxi with Kennett and Michael Vink in the top three overall and the squad holding the lead in the team classification.

The stage began aggressively with a number of attacks but nothing able to stick early on with a bunch that were keen to keep things together on the pancake flat course.  With just under 60km to go a move featuring riders from Delko Marseille, Hengxiang Cycling Team, Ningxia Sports Lottery-Livall Cycling Team, Team Sapura Cycling and Tianyoude Hotel Cycling Team went up the road but after initially looking promising they were brought back as the likes of Team Novo Nordisk, Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM and Burgos-BH became the next to try and go clear.  

Everything came to nought, however, as the intermediate sprint approached.  Dylan Kennett challenged for the bonus seconds, but it was Boris Vallée of Wanty-Gobert who took the points ahead of Damiano Cima of Nippo Vini Fantini Faizané and Itama Einhorn of Israel Cycling Academy.

Finally a lone move went clear with Weimar Alfonso Roldán of Medellin going up the road.  The Colombian managed to find clear daylight and with 31km to go he had a 20 second lead as Wanty-Gobert took over on the front of the peloton after the stage had seen no one team in full control of the pace.  Close behind were St George Continental Cycling Team and Israel Cycling Academy, but they appeared happy with how things were progressing, with Roldán’s lead extending to 34 seconds with 28km to go.

Roldán led through the second intermediate sprint, but the rise in tempo from the peloton as they approached saw his lead cut to just 10 seconds.  This time Kennett was able to claim bonus seconds, leading the bunch across to pick up 2 bonus seconds and three points ahead of teammate Blake Quick.

Seeing that his lead was evaporating, Roldán finally sat up and the riders began to get ready for the anticipated bunch sprint.  A three-man move looked to try and upset the day though with Chengshuo Miao and He Jiang of Hangxiang Cycling Team going clear with Chun Kin Lai of Hong Kong China.  Lai was unable to contribute to the move with the same punch as Miao an Jiang and he was the first to be brought back, with the peloton catching the two teammates with just under 7km to go.

From here the trains began to form, contesting for the front of the race with St George, Wanty-Gobert, GIANT Cycling Team, Burgos-BH all looking to challenge for the front of the race.  Dylan Kennett in the green jersey was well positioned even with the messy run into the finish.  Eventually with 2km to go Burgos-BH moved to the front and looked to be in control but by the 1km to go ark it was anyone’s guess with a lone rider from Wanty-Gobert holding the front of the peloton.  Kennett finally found himself sitting third wheel and with a perfect lead out from Quick.  But a sudden turn of pace from Marco Benfatto forced the Kiwi to chase in the mad dash to the line.

Kennett accelerated powerfully and drew alongside Benfatto to push the Italian all the way to the line.  It took a photo finish to decide the winner with Benfatto narrowly getting the win ahead of Kennett who took over the overall race lead, and Brenton Jones of Delko Marseille.  Kennett now has a six second lead overall ahead of Mathias Brandle.

Afterwards Kennett said, “At the end it was a pretty hectic run to the finish, it was quite slow until 5k to go and then it was like the last kilometre of a track race, it was crazy!”

“When I got jumped in the finish line I came across and I couldn’t believe I was coming up so quick in the finish, I tried a big bike lunge and almost crashed myself.  I think he [Benfatto] held on by a centimetre or two it was really close.  The team’s really happy and we’re looking forward to the rest of it.”

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