Jonny Clarke's debut with the new Floyd's Pro Cycling team got off to the best possible start this week when the Australian won a stage and the general classification at the Tour de Taiwan, a five-day UCI 2.1 race that finished Thursday in Pingtung.
Clarke won the 118.9km second stage from Taoyuan to Jiaobanshan Park, a relatively flat day of racing that included some altitude gain at the end. Clarke won from a reduced bunch sprint after out-pacing Giovanni Lonardi (Nippo Vini Fantini Faizanè) and Nathan Earle (Israel Cycling Academy) up the final ramp.
Clarke's win came days after the team's Noah Granigan won the team's first US calendar race at the Redlands Bicycle Classic in California. Granigan took the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour stage win by infiltrating a successful breakaway during the stage 4 downtown Redlands criterium and outfoxing his rivals in the final sprint.
"We have a new team, Floyd's Pro Cycling, and we already have a win back in America with some podiums, the team's really happy," Clarke said after his stage win. "We also have Travis McCabe, he is a good sprinter. I think for us, we already exceeded the expectation a bit, but we will keep trying to win."
Clarke's stage win was a first UCI victory for both the team and the 34-year-old Australian, who rode for the now-defunct UnitedHealthcare team since 2010. Clarke competed in Taiwan last year with UHC, finishing second overall to Bahrain-Merida's Yukiya Arashiro, who was competing in the race with the Japanese national team. He was joined in Taiwan this year by Floyd's teammates McCabe, Serghei Tvetcov, Keegan Swirbul, Emile Jean and Nick Zukowsky.
"Last year I was second in GC, I was happy but it was also a little bit heartbroken to lose it," Clarke said. "I am happy now. I've won a stage and it is my first-ever professional win after 12 years. I am used to doing the work for other riders, but this time I won."
The team's journey to the overall win in Taiwan was hard-fought, as Clarke lost the jersey on a brutally hot stage 3 when Lonardi finished third in the bunch sprint and secured a time bonus that lifted him into the overall lead on tie-breaker points.
The Italian's time in yellow was also short-lived, however, when Clarke finished second on stage 4 behind Elevate-KHS rider James Piccoli and regained the overall lead with an advantage of six seconds over Piccoli and 12 seconds over Etienne van Empel (Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM).
With only a very flat sprint stage remaining, Clarke held onto his overall lead by finishing safely in the bunch as Lonardi won the final kick ahead of Elevate-KHS sprinter Eric Young. Floyd's sprinter McCabe was fifth on the stage.
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