Japanese rider, Shinobu Noguchi (Trek Asia) took out a chaotic bunch sprint to win stage one at the 2013 Tour de Bintan just ahead of Tjarco Cuppens (Lapierre Asia Cycling) and Kristjan Snorrason (Cannasia-Cannondale). It was just millimeters that separated the top three after 150km of never-ending hills and energy sapping heat coupled with torrential rains that turned the roads into raging rivers.
Pierre-Alain Scherwey (Anza Cycling) was active all day in the peloton and finished safely in the bunch back in 18th position to retain his yellow jersey for another day. Taylor Price (Specialized) had some anxious moments in the final 10km when he suffered an untimely puncture, however Price was able to re-connect with just 5km remaining and keeps his second position overall on general classification. The strong Dutchman, Tjarco Cuppens, crossed in second place and bagged a six second bonus, leaping to third overall on GC; just 10 seconds behind Taylor Price.
The elite category rolled out at 8am at the township of Simpang Lagoi in front of thousands of local fans under sunny humid conditions. After several kilometers of the neutral section, the racing got underway with the usual flurry of attacks but nothing was succeeding. The two big teams DirectAsia.com and Specialized Confero Mavericks were very attentive on the front, keeping things together.
It was not till the intermediate sprint at the 42km mark that a breakaway was finally established containing six riders including two from Specialized Confero Mavericks (Ben Arnott and James Guardino), two Indonesian ISSI Bintan riders (Tedi Andrian Saputra and Erik Supriyanto), and James Pretty (Cannasia-Cannondale).
Soon it was just four-men toiling away together to eck out a maximum advantage of one minute 40 seconds on the peloton.
The men in black from DirectAsia.com finally amassed a presence on the front together with some of the Anza Cycling Team riders to bring back the breakaway. With just 40km of racing left, three more of the breakaway riders were caught and there was just one rider remaining left up the road.
Erik Supriyanto (ISSI Bintan) was the solo rider out to claim maximum KOM points and then attempt to solo in the win; however, he was denied by a motivated peloton that was chasing hard.
It was at this point in the stage the torrential downpours came, limiting vision to just the rider in front and in many places on the road was gushing with 15cm deep water. The attacks just kept flowing freely as the downpour, with Tjarco Cuppens launching a particularly vicious one with just 15km remaining that split the peloton and about a dozen riders sprung clear going over a series of hard rollers. However, some lack of cohesion by the front split allowed the riders chasing hard to catch back on.
It was a finish tailor-made for the sprinters and the last 8km saw no more attacks as the teams sought to mark each other and wait for the final move.
In the Sprint Ace Classification, it is Tedi Andrian Saputra leading the way taking maximum points in both the sprints available and has 30 points, 20 points clear of second placed James Guardino (Specialized Confero Mavericks) and Ben Arnott (Specialized Confero Mavericks) in third also with 10 points.
It is more tightly contested in the KOM Classification, with three riders all on 15 points – Erik Supriyanto, Matthew Boys and Tjarco Cuppens.
There is still more exciting racing yet to happen with stage two’s 107km starting and finishing at Nirwana Gardens. There are still many opportunities for the GC contenders to make a difference and the race is not over till the riders cross the finish-line. It is likely to shape up to be another bunch sprint for the finale and GC contenders will want those time bonuses!
For more information about Tour de Bintan, visit the Official Website.