Wouter Wippert has continued Drapac Professional Cycling’s dream start at the Tour of Japan, taking out the bunch sprint to win the second stage in Mino on Tuesday.
The result follows Drapac’s 1-2 finish in Sunday’s Prologue where Will Clarke and Jordan Kerby proved unbeatable. Clarke retains the green leader’s jersey heading into day three with a one-second advantage over Wippert and Brenton Jones (Avanti) with the 29-year-old finishing safely on bunch time.
“The stage panned out perfectly and went to plan,” said Clarke. “With two riders up the road it made it easier for us to control the race with a little help from Lampre-Merida also. Jordan, Lach’ [Norris] and myself rode on the front for a lot of the day.
“I am really happy to have another day in the green jersey,” Clarke continued. “With so many time bonuses on offer I really hadn’t expected to keep it.”
Wippert, who takes his victory tally to five for the year with previous wins at the New Zealand Cycle Classic where he won two stages, the Tour de Taiwan, and the OCBC Singapore Criterium, emerged at the head of the bunch with 250 metres to go. He finished a bike length ahead of Niccolň Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida) and Brenton Jones (Avanti).
The 160.7km stage was dominated by a two-man breakaway of Takayuki Abe (Utsunomiya Blitzen) and Airan Fernandez (Matrix Powertag) which gained a maximum advantage of just under four minutes before the race was finally brought back together on the final lap of the 21.3km circuit after Drapac, with assistance from Lampre-Merida.
“When you plan the way you want a stage to work, and then the team executes it perfectly and you win, it’s even more special,” said Wippert. “The team – Will, Jai and Adam – dropped me off perfectly and Lach and Jordan worked all day to ensure the break didn’t go away too much.
“They were just perfect.”
Wippert, who also takes the lead in the points and young rider classifications following his stage victory, said he was pushed all the way by the Lampre-Merida rider but felt confident in victory.
“There was a head wind so, so it was important to wait a bit longer than normal in the sprint and I was in perfect position with 200 metres to go,” he explained.
“I was disappointed with the crit on Sunday, but it wasn’t the main motivation to win today. Today was one of a few chances to win in Japan so when there’s a chance I have to try!”
It followed a huge team effort from Drapac who lead the race coming out of the big left-hand bend following the Oyada Tunnel climb which culminated in a tricky descent.
“The last time up the climb we stayed with Wouter and brought him to the front,” explained Clarke.
“Jai [Crawford] did a great job down the last few kilometres of the descent, then I drove hard followed by Adam [Phelan] – then Wouter smoked them!”
Results snapshot – Drapac Professional Cycling, Tour of Japan Prologue:
1 Wouter Wippert (Ned) 3:47:36
22 Jai Crawford (Aus) +0:00:00
34 Adam Phelan (Aus)
39 Lachlan Norris (Aus)
60 Will Clarke (Aus)
92 Jordan Kerby (Aus) +0:04:28
General Classification –
1 Will Clarke (Aus) 3:50:50
2 Wouter Wippert (Ned) +0:00:01
11 Adam Phelan (Aus) +0:00:08
14 Lachlan Norris (Aus) +0:00:10
41 Jai Crawford (Aus) +0:00:16
92 Jordan Kerby (Aus) +0:04:31