Team Illuminate launches season with success in Taiwan - Gallery

Team Illuminate's season-opening trip to the Tour de Taiwan proved successful for the US Continental squad, which scored multiple top 10 finishes and led the team classification for three stages.

Avanti IsoWhey Sport's Robbie Hucker won the final general classification ahead of Francisco Mancebo (SkyDive Dubai) and Avanti's Ben O'Connor, but Illuminate left its mark on mulitple stages.

The five-rider roster of Flavio De Luna, recently crowned Colombian national champion Edwin Avila, Scott Sunderland, Alexander Ray and Griffin Easter took on the five-stage UCI 2.1 event from March 6-10.

"What a first tour for the team," said Australian Scott Sunderland. "We had five riders from five different nations, three spoke English, two spoke Spanish, but we all understood one another perfectly.”

Canadian Ray struck first with a podium finish on the opening stage, coming in third behind Drapac Pro Cycling's Will Clark and UnitedHealthcare's Carlos Alzate. Avila rode into the top 10 during stage 2 with a ninth-place result in a stage won by Vino4Ever's Stepan Astafyev. The former Colombian track specialist bettered that the next day with a fifth-place finish in the 119.3km third stage in Taoyuan.

It was Avila's turn again during stage 4, a 166km stage from Nantou to Xiang-Shan Visitor Center in which he finished second, while Illuminate's Ray grabbed seventh and US rider Griffin Easter was 12th. Ray was Illuminate's top finished on the final stage, coming in 12th. Avila was next for Illuminate in 14th. Overall, the team finished fourth in the team competition won by Avanti.

“This is the most international team I’ve been on," Ray said after the tour. "There is a lot of flair and silliness, saving our seriousness for the business end of the race. It was our first time together, but it felt as though we’ve been a team for years. We all want to see each other succeed and seem to have similar racing styles; we compliment each other really well.”

Team General Manager Chris Johnson said he was encouraged by the team's start.

"This was our first trip as a team and Taiwan was the perfect destination because of the strong cycling culture that exists there, and the race gave us the ability to connect with individuals and communities on the island to celebrate the power of the bicycle," he said. "I was excited not only by how the team did results-wise in Taiwan, but also with how the riders came together as a group."

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