Matt Zenovich’s 2019 season began strongly after bypassing the Elite Road National Championships in Napier to focus on the New Zealand Cycle Classic. Second in stage 1 paved the way for a strong campaign that saw him come away with 10th overall. Since then it has been quiet on the UCI front, but a return came for Zenovich at the Tour de Langkawi where he finished 7th in the opening stage to Tampin.
Zenovich has developed a habit so far in 2019 of taking strong results on the opening day of racing at stage races, and that habit continued in the Tour de Iskandar Johor; paving the way for a successful assault on the king of the mountains classification.
Stage 1 from Iskandar Puteri to Batupahat was 122.9km in length and would end up being a contest between three riders vying for the stage win. X-Speed United’s Ryan Roth, Team Sapura Cycling’s Benjamin Dyball and St George Continental Cycling Team’s Zenovich broke clear of the nearest rivals and put 17 seconds into them that was enough to secure the win for one of them.
In the sprint for the line it was Roth who was fastest, taking the stage win ahead of Zenovich and Dyball. Roth and Zenovich gapped Dyball, and were almost shoulder to shoulder for the win; but the Canadian marginally out-sprinted the Kiwi to take the honours.
Second place on the stage also came with the added bonus of taking the lead in the king of the mountains classification; with Zenovich taking 4 points en route to the finish to Roth’s 2 and Dyball’s 1.
Stage 2 from Muar to Yong Peng saw Zenovich drop from 3rd overall to 8th as a group of five riders arrived at the finish line over a minute ahead of the main chase group containing Michael Vink and Matt Zenovich. While the stage went to Cristian Raileanu of Team Sapura Cycling, the king of the mountains lead changed hands to Dominic Perez of 7 Eleven Cliqq-air21 by Roadbike Philippines who equalled Zenovich’s tally of 4 points but took the lead thanks to a higher general classification position; 5th to Zenovich’s 8th.
The final battle, then, would be fought in stage 3 from Kluang to Johor Bahru. At 107.7km in length it was a day that took not much more than a couple of hours to complete. Determined not to miss out on the last of the king of the mountains points, Zenovich wasn’t alone in fighting for the points with Terengannu Cycling Team’s Irwandie Lakasek taking maximum points, but Zenovich picked up 2 to take the KOM jersey by 2 points from Perez.
Overall Zenovich finished 8th, 46 seconds behind Germany’s Mario Vogt of Team Sapura Cycling, with Michael Vink also producing a strong race across the three stages, taking 13th overall at 1.11mins.
Zenovich joins James Fouche as one of New Zealand’s KOM conquerors of 2019, with Fouche having already won KOM classifications for Team Wiggins Le Col at the Tour of Antalya, Volta ao Alentejo and Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux.