Stage six of the 2013 UCI Tour de Taiwan took the riders over a route that truly tested their mettle and bike handling skills, with one short but challenging climb that blew the peloton apart and a descent that saw several riders take a tumble.
That, combined with a final 30km along a wind-swept ocean highway and a hair-raising final 150m uphill sprint, meant this stage was a real test for the pack.
Fortunately no one was seriously injured, and Drapac’s Bernard Sulzberger retained the lead.
Drapac’s Thomas Palmer takes us through the day’s action…
“The team had to dig deep today to defend the leader’s jersey on a hilly, windy, day.
Controlling on the front from the start, we had to ward off 40 kilometres of dangerous attacks before a group of two we were happy with stuck, and we could hold them at a minute with Gordon McCauley controlling the pace.
Once we reached the day’s two main climbs in the second half of the stage, the general classification challengers launched their attacks. Bernie and Robbie Hucker managed to hang on.
The bunch behind them split to pieces, with Floris Goessinnen and I digging in to get over the climb as close as possible, dare-deviling the fast, technical descent and then chasing back to the front.
We knew it was then a difficult position, with only the two at the front and 40 kilometres of fending off the attacks that would continue all the way to the finish. We had to fight back to help.
We re-joined the lead group with 25 kilometres of strong headwind to ride, to help Bernie and Robbie counter the onslaught of teams trying to get away for a few seconds on the line.
Climbing is harder if you have ridden the front beforehand. Riding the front is harder after you have chased, and made especially difficult with a headwind.
For these reasons we found ourselves under serious pressure in the final kilometres, so being able to hold it together was a success for the team.
Unfortunately in the final sprint for the line, Robbie, looking for bonus seconds, was involved in pretty hard crash. He’s not seriously hurt but will be stiff and sore.
As I mentioned yesterday, today was our biggest challenge but tomorrow we still have everything to lose.
The stage on the short, technical city street circuit will be far from a formality and we have to continue at our best to finish off this tour with yellow.”
Tomorrow’s final stage is a 56km critereum in downtown Taipei that should draw a major crowd.