By Gennie Sheer
SouthAustralia.com-AIS rider Cameron Meyer took a narrow lead in the Tour of Japan with one stage remaining. Meyer, 20, from Western Australia went into Saturday's penultimate stage of the six stage event trailing Korea's Huo Suk Gong (Seoul Cycling) by 21 seconds with the team determined to apply the pressure on the 112.5km Shuzeni - Japan Cycle Sport Centre circuit.
"The tactic was to put him right under pressure and see if he cracked," said Meyer. "We did that and he did (crack) which meant I took over the leader's jersey."
But Meyer admits the race isn't won yet with only a narrow one second margin separating him and Australian Jai Crawford (Marco Polo) on the overall standings. "Tomorrow's [Sunday's] final stage is a pretty flat one with three intermediate sprints that have time bonuses plus the bonuses for the finish so the Tour's not won yet and it will come down to the wire," said Meyer. "But I have good team-mates to lead me out and they are riding really well at the moment.
"I'm confident I can stay in the lead tomorrow and take the title," said Meyer who is a world class points racer on the track, an event that requires both endurance and sprint speed.
According to Team Director, Brian Stephens, Saturday's stage was the "toughest of the Tour apart from the time trial" and was raced on a very hilly, twisting circuit.
"We were pretty aggressive and had guys going in all the breaks," said Stephens. "Wes (Sulzberger went away in a group of six which forced Gong's team to chase and that wore them out a bit then when the break was almost caught some other teams started to attack and Gong dropped his chain," said Stephens. "It only took him a second to get going again but he panicked and chased really hard.
"Gong couldn't get back to the front of the peloton and then Wes and Simon (Clarke) hit the front and rode solid tempo to keep together what became a twenty man leading group."
Frenchman Alexandre Aulas won the uphill sprint finish in a time of three hours, one minute and 49 seconds with Meyer crossing in fourth place three seconds back. The race leader lost almost three minutes while Sulzberger was 15th at six seconds and Clarke 19th at 33 seconds.
"Wes was man of the match for me today because not only did he get in a break and ride really hard in it he then did a tonne of work for Cameron when the break came back," said Stephens of the Tasmanian who had lead the Tour up until Friday's time trial when surrendered the jersey to Gong. Sulzberger now sits in eighth place overall, 3'07" behind Meyer's leading time.
Meyers' SouthAustralia.com-AIS leads the teams classification by 3'31".
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of stage 6 of the Tour of Japan.