3/25/2013 12:00:00 AM - TEAM NEWS!

Ever placed Benjamin Giraud finally caps it off

Tour de Taiwan 2013

Sulzberger retains lead with one criterium to go

While mountain bikers are usually known for their transformation as great climbers on the road, Frenchman Benjamin Giraud of La Pomme-Marseille has set an exception to the rule as he became an excellent sprinter but it wasn't a standard victory with just a bunch sprint finish that he claimed at the end of stage 6 in the Tour of Taiwan. Firstly, he was the first attacker of the day, from km 3 to 10, together with Champion System's Mart Ojavee. Secondly, he survived a long and hard climb to be able to come across to the 22 leaders in the finale. Thirdly, he could only count on one team-mate, South Africa's Chris Jennings who had ridden aggressively earlier on, to face the head wind and bring him back onto the attackers alongside the Taiwan Strait ahead of a bunch gallop.

"I didn't panic", Giraud told Cyclingnews after the finish. "As we passed the finishing road the other way round during the stage, I knew what the last 200 metres were like, and it was exactly to my taste as I prefer slightly uphill finishes. In the sprint, I always kept the situation under my control with an advantage of two length of a bike. I'm delighted. This is my first win at category 1 level. Some people might disregard it as it is a race in Asia but the Tour de Taiwan is a very nice race with an unbelievable battle every day from km 0 till the end. It's important for my team to win here on our Taiwanese bikes CKT. I know it's not China here but last year, in China, I finished seven times in the top 3 and nineteen times in the top 10 at the three races I took part in: Tour of Qinghai Lake, Tour of Hainan, Tour of Taihu Lake. It was time for me to win. It brings a totally different feeling to be a winner."

His continental team La Pomme-Marseille was continuously at the front with Thomas Vaubourzeix riding away from the bunch for fifty kilometers, initially with Joe Cooper (Huon-Genesys), Yoshimitsu Hiratsuka (Aisan), Dennis van Niekerk (MTN-Qhubeka) and Takero Terasaki (Japan) and later with counter attacker Liu Hao (Max Success) who missed a curve in a downhill and made his way back on the road through some cars parked at an intersection.

Full action went on in the in the main climb of the day, Bei Route 28, when the Champion System team sent on form Malaysian Adiq Hussainie to the front to capture the points at the top and therefore secure Feng Chun Kai's polka dot jersey for good. Hong Kong's Choi Ki Ho tried to go away but was followed closely by Saufi Mat Senan of Terengganu who is his biggest rival for the best Asian rider competition. The MTN-Qhubeka riders put race leader Sulzberger in difficulty. A group of 22 leaders was eventually formed in the downhill: Bradley White (Unitedhealthcare), Morten Sandvik (Froy-Bianchi), Sulzberger and Robbie Hucker (Drapac), Nathan Earle, Jai Crawford and Anthony Giacoppo (Huon-Genesys), Yuzuru Suzuki (Shimano), Benjamin Sydlik (Nutrixxion), Masakazu Ito (Aisan), Van Niekerk, Louis Meintjes and Tsgabu Grmay (MTN-Qhubeka), Liu and Huang En (Max Success), Kirill Pozdnyakov (Baku) and Liam Holohan (Madison), Hussainie, Choi, Saufi, Jennings and Vaubourzeix.

Jennings and Holohan went away before the group got reined in. They surrendered with 10km to go. From 5 to 3km to go, there was a duo at the front with stage 3 winner Shahrul Mat Amin who stuck to the wheel of Choi who was trying to regain the lead of the best Asian classification from his team-mate and best friend Saufi. This fight for the blue jersey is expected to go during the final criterium in Taipei on Sunday morning, so is the competition for the third place overall between Meintjes and Pozdnyakov.

Sulzberger is aware that another Drapac rider, Rhys Pollock, who led and eventually won the Tour de Taiwan last year, sustained a crash during the final stage. "I hope not to do that, I've had a lot of bad luck in my career already", said the Tasmanian. "I'm confident to win this race. The hardest part was today when I got isolated for a little while."

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Photo credit © Aaron Lee/Tour de Taiwan

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