It was considered as the coldest winter of Taiwan in 40 years but Markus Eibegger of the Tabriz Petrochemical team shrugged of the cold, wind and rain to take Stage Three of the Tour de Taiwan 2011 this afternoon.
With the cold dipping under 12 degrees celcius at the start of the stage from Taoyuan City Hall this morning, Eibegger seems to be in his element as he finished the day comfortably ahead to also win the tour leader yellow jersey with a time of 2:40:06 to complete the 127km route.
Enroute to the finish line at Chiang Kai Shek memorial at Cihu Visitor Centre, the peloton sets a blistering pace of more than 47km/hr - far above those recorded in the last few days.
“The weather?” quipped Eibegger after the race. “I have no problem as it suits us European very well.
“It was a dark race but my team is very happy to win the stage, to keep the yellow jersey, the king of the mountain and also the blue jersey (for Mehdi Sohrabi).”
The Austrian was part of an early breakaway group which went off early in the stage when he joined Rhys Pollock (Drapac Professional team) and Jaan Kirsipuu (Champion System) just after Haigang Road.
They were also joined by Mart Ojavee (Champion System) and also Dean Downing (Rapha Condor Sharp) as they took turn to drive forward.
The group dominated for much of the race with Pollock picking up the first first sprint at Fulin Elementary School while Ojavee collected the remaining two sprints at Tung Ming Elementary School and also Song Wu Elementary School.
As riders began dropping off, the chasing pack caught up with the breakaways at Laochuang Road at the 87km mark.
With less than 30 kilometres to go to the finish, Eibegger went off to pick up both KOMs as two others, Pollock and Ojavee joined in to give chase as the peloton seems content to sit.
But a slip at the last five kilometres involving Pollock and Ojavee allowed Eibegger to carve the advantage all the way to the finish where he is now more than 12 seconds ahead of team-mate Sohrabi and 19 seconds ahead of third placed David McCann of Giant Kenda in the general classification.
“I’m not happy because Markus took the yellow jersey from me and I will have to win it back from him tomorrow,” joked Mehdi afterwards.
“But seriously, it was a good race and I’m happy for Markus for winning the stage and the two jerseys - important that it stayed with the team.”
With the win at the two final sprints, Ojavee has now taken over the sprinter’s green jersey from Chan Jae Jang of the Korea national team.
“I just followed the breakaway duo at the end and it was just too bad what happened in the last few kilometres with the slip up,” added Ojavee, who has collected a total of 15 points in the sprint – four more than second-placed Pollock.
The jersey for the best ranked Under-23 rider is still in the grasp of Adam Phelan of the Drapac Professional cycling team.
“It was really bad weather. It was windy all day long. I tried to keep up but it was very cold, a new experience for me,” added Phelan.
Tomorrow’s Stage Four will start at Hsinchu City and ends in Sun Moon Lake – the queen stage in this year’s race, a long 192.5km ride south.
TOUR de TAIWAN 2011
STAGE THREE RESULTS
1. Markus Eibegger (Tabriz Petrochemical) 2:40:06
2. Rhys Pollock (Drapac Professional) 2:40:27
3. Mart Ojavee (Champion System) 2:40:50
4. Boris Shpilevckiy (Tabriz Petrochemical) 2:41:27
5. Adam Phelan (Drapac Professional) 2:41:27
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION (after STAGE THREE)
1. Markus Eibegger (Tabriz Petrochemical) 6:55:48
2. Mehdi Sohrabi (Tabriz) 6:56:00
3. David McCann (Giant Kenda) 6:56:07
4. Rhys Pollock (Drapac) 6:56:55
Mart Ojavee (Champion System) 6:57:07