Logan Griffin has finished fourth overall in the Sri Lanka T-Cup. The Nex CCN Cycling Team rider was consistent throughout over the three-day UCI 2.2 stage race which was won by Yasuharu Nakajima of Kinan Cycling Team.
The 2018 Sri Lanka T-Cup started in Passikudah, taking the riders 124km to Mahiyanaganaya. The journey took the field of 64 riders from Sri Lanka’s east coast in towards the centre of Sri Lanka, and in its first year as a UCI 2.2 stage race there was a lot of competition from a number of teams; particularly on the UCI Asia Tour.
“There were some strong Continental Asian teams there and the Astana development team so the level was good and racing quite controlled,” Logan told RoadCycling.
The Nex CCN Team were a collection of different ages, nations and cultures, but Griffin was impressed with the way that a team of stark differences was able to gel together. “The team is awesome,” Griffin told us. “For this race we had Lex [Nederlof] who’s Dutch but lives in Thailand, Hari [Fitrianto], Ryan [Ariehaan], the manager Jamal from Indonesia, Dave [Treacy] the Aussie (but actually from Malta and myself.”
“We had a real international group with an average age of 37, but we are all there for the right reasons, no questions asked about supporting each other in the race. We have a good time on and off the bike and just appreciate each other’s company just as much as we appreciate how good at bike riding each of us are. It’s a great team vibe, nice and low key and I think this allows me to perform the best I can.”
The UCI Asia Tour has a habit for producing a racing style that is highly intense by nature, and day 1 of the Sri Lanka T-Cup was no exception. Griffin, as one of two GC prospects for the Nex CCN Team pre-empted what would lie ahead on day 1. “As often happens in the Asian Continental races if the right mix of teams/riders gets up the road on the first day that can decide GC, also with the tour only being three days and only one big climb on the second day the first stage was always going to be critical,” Griffin explained.
Passikudah to Mahiyanaganaya was a battle right from the start with the average speed for the first 20 minutes hitting 49.9kph. Eventually though a breakaway group formed which Griffin was able to infiltrate. Being such a large group, with so many teams present it was difficult to get proper cooperation from the break; although it did succeed in staying clear of the peloton to the end. Out of that breakaway group, though, came a trio of riders in Yasuharu Nakajima of Kinan Cycling Team, Yoshimitsu Hiratsuka of Team UKYO and Stepan Astafyev of Vino-Astana Motors.
The trio attacked with 30km to go and put upwards of 2 minutes into the rest of the break, taking the podium places on the stage – Nakajima from Astafyev from Hiratsuka – while Griffin came home in the group that still finished almost a minute ahead of the peloton. It was a positive start for Griffin, who finished 13th on the stage, but with time bonuses at the intermediate sprint meaning he climbed to 5th overall.
Time bonuses were again the goal for Griffin in stage 2 of the Sri Lanka T-Cup from Mahiyanganaya to Kandy. The Vino-Astana Motors team controlled the race well, and came away with first and second on the stage, but Griffin’s performance earlier in the day, coupled with tenth place across the line, meant a jump up the GC to 4th on the eve of the final day. It was a strong day for the Kiwis with Nick Miller of McDonalds Down Under taking 11th place on the stage.
Onto the final stage, 122km from Kandy to Negombo, and Griffin opted to throw caution to the wind. “The final day, sitting 4th I had nothing to lose really so I tried again to get away in the early break but even though we had a good group working well the Astana team brought things back together after 30km,” Griffin told us.
The day was destined to end in a bunch sprint, with Mohd Hariff Saleh of Terengganu Cycling Team running away with the win. Griffin finished 13th on the stage, securing his fourth place overall; as Yasuhara Nakajima claimed the overall title.
All in all the three days of racing were really positive for Griffin, who noticed a major difference to his performance earlier in the season at the Tour de Lombok Madalika. “I was really happy with how I went, it was my second trip over to Asia this year and after really struggling in the heat at the Tour of Lombok a few weeks back, when I returned to NZ I made a few changes to my training which I felt allowed me to manage the heat much better this time and meant I could perform at the level I should be able to,” Griffin said.
The 22 year old had high praise for Sri Lanka; a fine backdrop for a stage race like the T-Cup. “Sri Lanka is a beautiful country and I thoroughly enjoyed riding there. The food is amazing, people are friendly and we were looked after very well. I’m already trying to convince my girlfriend Hannah we should go back there on holiday.”
From here Griffin will return to racing on New Zealand shores and look to prepare for what is set to be a big block of racing later on in the year. “There isn’t a whole lot on the Asian calendar for us over the next few months so I’ll be at home in NZ training and doing domestic races before going over for what will likely be a big block September-December starting with the Tour of Poyang Lake which I am keen to go back to,” Griffin said.