Project852, a new Hong Kong cycling team sponsored by Sportsworld and Garmin, have made a strong start at the Tour of Friendship in Thailand.
This short but intense time trial is held on a closed stretch of highway in down-town Bangkok. The team knew that the best times would be under 10 minutes with an average of 42km/h plus, and the mostly flat course was deceptive in the pain it could deliver.
First up were the 30's and a good showing was put in by Aron Åkesson with a 10:02, claiming 7th place. Other good results in the 30's included Justin Baldacchino with a 10:09 (11th place) and Ross Valiente with a 10:26.
In the 40's Rupert Griffiths claimed 9th place with a 10:02 - half a second slower than Aron (much to Aron's amusement). A tyre blow-out just 15mins before Rupert's time trial added a fair bit of drama, and possibly some additional adrenaline. The next Project852 rider was Clinton Leong with a 10:22, which secured him 20th place.
With only 2 riders in the 50's, we were chuffed to have Mike Tse achieve 6th place with a great time of 10:15, with Fritz Gross managing 14th with a 10:42.
Last but definitely not least is our lone (and very brave) female rider Mary Ho who claimed 7th position with a 12:08.
All the Project852 riders managed very competitive times and the team is looking good to go for the long stages that lay ahead.
Our 30's team was very visible today, chasing down all breaks and making sure Aron kept (or improved) his placing. Justin in particular was prominent putting in some strong efforts, but all team members played a very active role. The new kit is very noticable in the peloton which aided team work substantially. Disaster struck when Dan Mullins was taken down in a crash with 7km to go but fortunately only suffered minor knocks and scratches. An adrenaline surge post crash enabled him to get back on the bike and pull out a faster 7km than he achieved in the time trial, reducing his time loss on this stage to only 50 seconds.
A bunch sprint at the end of the stage ensued, with Aron, Ross and Justin in the top ten, with Aron in an impressive sixth. All Project852 apart from Dan finished in the bunch and should have secured the same time.
On a flat stage such as this, not much action was expected and it was a case of chasing down attacks as the 30's had done so well. Attacks became frequent after the 50km mark and all were shut down without too much intervention from Project852 riders, and the race finished in a bunch sprint as expected. All project852 riders were in the final pack and secured the same time. A good showing on a relatively "easy" day before the hills start on stage 3.
However, it later emerged that a cunning break had managed to get away with almost no one being the wiser to it. A total of 4 riders slipped off the front right at the beginning of the stage and managed to work together to stay away and claim 1 min 24 seconds on the rest of the peloton. There is some controversy over this break as a rider may have actually left the peloton during the neutralised part of the race - so it is subject to an enquiry. Full updates in the next report.
Mike and Fritz rode well in the 50's which was a combined peloton with the 30's. After finishing in the bunch sprint their overall positions should still be good (hopefully still 6th for Mike and 11th for Fritz - to be confirmed).
The ladies peloton started together with the open peleton, which was the first to set off into the heat of Thailand. Mary Ho did an outstanding job in her first ever bike race by managing to stay with the open peleton for the first 60km. After drifting back from that group she was caught by the 30's peleton and rode almost the entire remaining distance, just being dropped as the speed increased on the tight u-turn 10km from the finish. Mary managed to come in in 8th place amongst the ladies - a great result!
© 2017 Roojai