Team Illuminate starts season with stage win at Tour de Taiwan

Edwin Avila takes bunch kick on the opening day in Taipei

Team Illuminate started the 2017 season with victory in Taipei when Colombian Edwin Avila won the opening stage at the UCI 2.1 Tour de Taiwan on Sunday.

Avila overcame the wet and slippery conditions in the finale to take the bunch sprint win over JLT Condor's Russell Downing and RTS-Monton's Paolo Lunardon.

"I'm very happy to get the victory today in Stage 1," Avila said. "This is a great way to start the season for myself and Team Illuminate.

"The race today was dangerous," he continued. "I saw the rain and this was a good opportunity for me. I jumped with about 500m to go, there were three corners and with the rain I knew I had to be at the front. Thank god, it worked and I got the win."

Avila wore the race leader's jersey into stage 2, a 114km circuit race in Taipei, where he finished third on the day and earned the green points jersey but lost the overall lead to stage winner James Gullen (JLT Condor). Avila is currently second overall – just one second behind Gullen and eight seconds ahead of JLT Condor's Edmund Bradbury – with three stages remaining.

Team Illuminate General Manager Chris Johnson was ecstatic about Avila's win on Sunday.

"This is a big win for the team in our first UCI race of the season," Johnson said. "We're excited to be here in Taiwan. We recently signed a partnership with Bryton Sport and it was so cool to have them at the race today. We visited Byrton Sport's HQ earlier this week and we're proud to honor their sponsorship with a big victory in Taipei."

Avila, a talented all-rounder who was the 2016 Colombian road champion, will next face two challenging climbing stages in Taiwain before the final sprinter-friendly stage on the final day in Pingtung. The mountains could be problematic for Avila, but Johnson said the team will continue to fight for stage results and for the overall.

"The team we brought here is very strong and we're not done fighting for results," he said. "It will be hard to control the race with only five riders on each team, but the courses each day fit our ability well and we have a number of cards to play."

Team Illuminate also has Connor McCutcheon, Griffin Easter, Simon Pellaud and Cameron Piper at the race. Fellow US Continental team Elevate is also at the Asia Tour race, as well as US Pro Continental teams UnitedHealthcare and Novo Nordisk.

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