Aussies rule in Japan

South's Zakkari Dempster took stage 1, Wes Sulzberger and Cameron Meyer doubled on day two

South's Zakkari Dempster took stage 1, Wes Sulzberger and Cameron Meyer doubled on day two (Image credit: Miwako Sasaki)

Riders for the team are putting their mark on the Tour of Japan. After the win of Zakkari Dempster in stage 1, the team from Down Under outdid itself by getting a double victory via Wesley Sulzberger and Cameron Meyer in the second stage.

In today's 146.2-kilometre Dalbutsuden - Nunome Dam circuit race, Sulzberger sprinted home one second ahead of Meyer, who claimed second place, 13 seconds ahead of Japan's Kazuo Inoue.

"At the moment we can't do anything wrong," said directeur sportif, Brian Stephens, praising the riding and tactical strength of the team's performance so far. "The tactic today was to have someone in [every break] because, although we started the stage with Zak (Dempster) leading, the rest of this Tour is a bit too hilly for him, so we needed more options."

The team rode the race plan to perfection, with Sulzberger joining a breakaway group of 14 riders and Meyer riding up to the break soon after to increase the team's chances at the finish. The stage was raced over 12 laps of a 12-kilometre circuit, with the finishing line climbing to the top of the dam wall.

"Obviously, we wanted to keep working in the break to hold off the peloton, which was chasing pretty hard behind our group," said Sulzberger. "In the last couple of laps Cam [Meyer] and I both knew attacks would come on the finishing climb, so we marked riders, stayed up the front and stayed alert.

"Cam slipped off the front in the final lap; when the Japanese guy counter-attacked I got on his wheel," explained Sulzberger. "I looked back and the rest of our group wasn't chasing, so I told Cam on the radio to keep going."

Holding a two against one advantage over Inoue, Meyer launched the first attack. "Cam went down the left and the Japanese guy (Inoue) had nothing left in the tank to counter so then I went down the right and we were away," said Sulzberger.

Sulzberger and Meyer now sit first and second overall but Sulzberger says they can deal with the pressure. "We might have won the first two stages but it's like any other race now and we have to plan our strategy," he said. "We'll try our hardest and not get too much of a big head."

Stephens explained that "We need to rethink our tactics now. We have two leaders but we still have Simon (Clarke) up our sleeves, so we have a few cards to play." Dempster and Simon Clarke finished in the main bunch, one and a half minutes behind Sulzberger.

The 890-kilometre Tour of Japan ends in Hibaya City next Sunday.

South - AIS Cycling Team is a major initiative in the growth of the Cycling Australia High Performance Program. The team, registered as a UCI Continental Team in the Oceania Region, integrates the U23 road development program and the talent of Australia's track endurance riders with major sponsorship support from the Australian Institute of Sport and the South Australian Tourism Commission.

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