Aug 18, 2013


Today's winner in Tuaran

The leaders after stage 1

Saufi and Paul battle it out in Tuaran

The flag-off at 1Borneo

Tough climbs on the first day

KOTA KINABALU, 18 August 2013 - Giant Paul van der Ploeg delivered an historic win for Sarawak's Team Corbusier after beating Terengganu Cycling Team's Saufi Mat Senan in a photo finish at the end of Stage One of the Tour of Borneo 2013, covering 112 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu to Tuaran today.

Standing a massive 6 feet and 7 inches tall, van der Ploeg is surprsingly only the second tallest rider in this second edition of the Tour of Borneo, behind teammate Razif Salleh, but that was the least important statistic when the 23-year old Australian delivered Team Corbusier's first ever victory in the UCI Asia Tour.

"It's also my first ever win in the UCI Asia Tour after several close calls. I got some top 10 finishes and podiums in the Tour of Thailand and the Jelajah Malaysia, but this is the sweetest," said van der Ploeg, the reigning under-23 cross country mountain bike world champion.

The win also gave van der Ploeg the overall lead and the green jersey for the points classification lead, which he admitted wasn't part of the team's plans.

The stage started off with several attacks going off the front of the peloton, although the peloton wasn't eager to let any of them get too far away. A three-man attack comprising Corbusier's Daniel Bonello, LBC's Ronald Oranza and 7-Eleven's Mark John Lexer Galedo was the only breakaway that was allowed to open over a minute's gap midway through the stage.

But they were brought back together as a decisive lead group formed shortly before the second categorised climb of the day in Tenghilan. The double climb across Tenghilan which saw two categorised climbs in the opposite directions contested, saw LBC's Junrey Navarra take the lead in the mountains classification with four points at the end of the stage.

"It wasn't too difficult a climb, so I was able to go for it comfortably," said Navarra, 21.

Van der Ploeg said he was dropped as the front of the peloton sped up both climbs but managed to work hard to catch up both times, before manning his way to the front and challenging in the sprint for the finish line.

"It was really a tough day, made worse by the extreme heat. I came here two days ago from the Ausralian winter with temperatures under 5 degress celsius, and here we have almost 40 degrees and extreme humidity, so it was still quite a shock to my system," said van der Ploeg.

"I had to really work hard to catch the front group again after I was dropped both times at the climb. So when I managed to get to the front, I was thinking to myself whether this was really happening, especially when I crossed the finish line. I still didn't know whether I'd won or not, but then I found that I did."

The win means Team Corbusier will have the burden of defending the yellow jersey beginning Stage Two tomorrow, but van der Ploeg said his teammates were up for it.

"The boys showed we were serious today. In virtually every breakaway that went, we had riders in it. Then in the final one, I was there with Bonello. It will be difficult, but we have this bonus of the yellow jersey that comes with winning the first stage of the Tour, so I think my teammates are up for it, so we're going to give it a shot," said van der Ploeg.

Only just missing out on the win to van der Ploeg, Saufi was pleased with his form, having been out of action since April. But he has the blue jersey as the leader of the Asian riders' classification, which would be something the Terengganu Cycling Team will work to defend as well.

"It feels got this result, despite being out of action for a few months. There are some really strong contenders for the Asian riders' classification, but of course we will try to defend it and keep this jersey."

The Tour of Borneo continues with a longer day in the saddle for everybody, with Stage Two tomorrow covering 189.5 kilometres from Tanjung Aru to Papar.

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