By John Craven
The Tour of the Murray River is off to a rainy, but spectacular start. David Kemp has put his stamp on the race, winning the first two of 13 stages over the course of one week.
Kemp rounded off his most successful haul as a professional cyclist by winning the first two stages of the opening day of the Timbercorp Tour of the Murray River. Kemp, 24, thrashed his 85 rivals in the stage one river-front criterium in Echuca, then defeated Bendigo speedster Glenn O'Shea in a thrilling finish to the 113km stage from Moama to Barham.
"It doesn't get much better than this," Kemp exclaimed as he celebrated his second victory.
Both stages were raced in brutally-tough conditions with more than 30 riders crashing. The field was buffeted by swirling winds and heavy rain and the casualty list was high. Kemp, however, and his supportive Virgin Blue contingent thrived. He led team-mate, Tasmanian Bernard Sulzberger by 41 seconds on general classification after the first two stages, with Geelong's Leigh Howard a further nine seconds away in third place.
"If I play my cards right over the next seven days I have a chance to win but it is a hotly contested tour," he said. "It's great that the results are going my way because I have put a lot of preparation into trying to win this tour. There was no hiding in the bunch today. It was just getting there and have a real go. Actually, I didn't mind the rain and wind."
Kemp began his cycling career in Toowoomba and showed great promise as a youngster. He moved to Melbourne last year to gain more experience and lives the dream of one day riding the Tour de France.
West Australian Benjamin King also enjoyed a productive day. Following his 19th place in the criterium, the Budget Forklifts rider finished third in the Moama-Barham stage to be in fifth place overall – 63 seconds adrift of Kemp.
See full coverage of the Tour of the Murray River.