Successfully defending the leader’s jersey nabbed in the second to last stage of the Tour of Thailand, Andy Bajadali of the Kelly Benefit Strategies team won the overall of the 6-stage race also known as the Princess Mahachakri Sirindhorn’ Cup.
The boys in green came out blazing in the first stage, where Canadian Zach Bell, fresh from the World Track Championships in Poland where he won the Silver Medal in the Omnium, finished third in the bunch sprint.
Bell bettered his result in the 184 km stage 2 and finished second in the final dash to the line.
The 138.2-km stage 4, which featured the only climb in the Tour of Thailand, was the decisive stage for the team. Bell went up the road in a three-man break that eventually grew to seven. He picked up the intermediate sprint and a three second time bonus and the break reached the climb around 1 minute and 30 seconds ahead. This placed great pressure on the Seoul Cycling team as Bell was 9th on GC with one minute and seven seconds down from the leader.
Stage winner Adam James Semple attacked from the break while Bell was caught by field close to the top of the climb where he joined teammates Jake Erker, Neil Shirley and Dan Bowman in the front group of 15 riders. The group worked together for the final 18 km before Shirley escaped alone to finish second on the stage. Tied on points with a rider from the Seoul Cycling Team but ahead on stage placings, Erker, who finished ninth on the stage, took the leader’s jersey.
At the end of the 185.85km stage 5, the team still had the leader’s jersey but this time it was on the shoulders of Bajadali who broke away in a group of 18 riders that gained seven minutes on the field in the early part of the race. That lead got whittled down to less than two minutes but Bajadali successfully controlled the competition in the break to move into the yellow jersey for the final stage with a lead of 28 seconds over his nearest competitor.
“We didn’t want to enter the final day tied for first place. There are too many things that can happen, especially with the time bonuses that are available tomorrow. I would have liked to have seen Erker keep the jersey until the end, because he has really earned it this week, but we needed to play it safe.” said Performance Director Jonas Carney in a team release.
For the sixth and final stage, the KBS team went to the front early and controlled the action for much of the day for the 76km circuit race in Udon Thani. The stage finished in another bunch sprint with Bajadali safely across the finish line with the same time to keep the yellow.
The KBS team had four riders in the final top 10, Erker in fourth, Bell in sixth and Bowman was seventh, and the team also won the team classification.
Not bad for a team that started its racing season two weeks ago at the Redlands Bicycle Classic after they were snubbed by the Tour of California organizers.
“We are happy with out success here in Thailand,” said Carney. “Winning the overall GC at a UCI stage race is a big accomplishment for our team, especially since we just started our season. I didn’t expect that we’d be so strong so soon.”
Complete results and more photos here
All photos courtesy of Kelly Benefit Strategies team