It was supposed to be a cakewalk for the Saxo Bank team in Taiwan. Arriving for the 2.1 rated Tour, the team were chasing a very utilitarian goal; UCI points. Facing a major deficit after former team captain Alberto Contador's points were disqualified by the CAS in February, the Tour de Taiwan is among many races added to Saxo Banks's calendar to bolster their 2012 tally.
Things haven't quite gone as smoothly however as the team would've liked. Just as Garmin-Barracuda found in Langkawi, the Asia Tour is far from easy, and Saxo Bank have so far struggled with success in Taiwan against the smaller continental teams.
"It’s always good to beat such a renowned rider," Giacoppo told Cyclingnews after recording his second stage success of the Tour de Taiwan. "It’s a confidence booster for sure [after finishing ahead of Giro d'Italia rider Roberto Ferrari]."
Chasing a WorldTour berth in 2013 the West Australian has only boosted his case in Taiwan. Meanwhile fresh off a strong Tour de Langkawi, Drapac have also been impressive and now hold the leader's jersey with journeyman Rhys Pollock, who says he is "confident that the team can now take the yellow jersey all the way to final stage and onto the podium on Friday".
It's an endorsement of the level of racing in Asia, that neither Saxo Bank nor Garmin-Barracuda can turn up to an Asian calendar event with the expectation of success, as they perhaps once could have. It's also a reflection of just how seriously the lesser teams, and riders approach races like the Tour de Taiwan and the Tour de Langkawi, which though still developing, are slowly becoming legitimate alternatives to racing in Europe.
Credit to Saxo Bank, the Danish team have featured prominently in Taiwan with their man Takashi Miyazawa, but the Japanese rider's grasp on the lead has always been tenuous, and his team has never looked completely in control of the racing. There are still four stages remaining and plenty of chances for Saxo Bank to prove themselves and vindicate their decision to ride in Taiwan - but it's certainly going to be no easy task to take the overall title for which they came.
The Tour de Taiwan continues today with a 140 km stage to Taichung.