Sawahlunto, West Sumatra. Japanese racer Masakazu Ito of the Aisan Racing Team claimed victory in the first stage of Tour de Singkarak, which started here on Monday.
Ito finished the 77.6-kilometer stage around Sawahlunto, a small city 95 kilometers northeast of the West Sumatra capital of Padang, in one hour, 51 minutes and 17 seconds.
Jai Crawford of the Genesys Australia team was two seconds behind Ito in second place. Action Taiwan cyclist Chun Kai-feng rounded out the podium after finishing third in 1:51:25.
Ito said that teamwork was the key to his debut stage victory in the fourth edition of the Rp 1 billion ($106,000) race.
“I’m happy to win the race. I got help from my teammate [Yasuharu] Nakajima as I started to break away from the big peloton 25 kilometers before the finish line,” the Japanese cyclist told reporters. “He held the other racers when we entered the climb while I went to take the leading position.”
As the stage winner, Nakajima, who will wear the yellow jersey for today’s second stage, earned a $2,000 cash prize.
The Australia National Team leads the team classification with a combined time of 5:35:13. Herwin Jaya of Polygon Sweet Nice claimed the red-white jersey as the fastest local racer in 1:51:27.
“The first stage was easier than last year as there weren’t as many climbs, but I failed in the sprint to the finish line,” the 2011 Southeast Asian Games gold medalist said. “My target now is to wear the Merah Putih jersey until the race’s end.”
Today’s second stage covers 124.5 kilometers from Muaro Sijunjung to Harau.
With more climbs in today’s stage, Crawford said he expected a tough race.
“[Tuesday’s] stage is going to be hard to control because lots of riders will try to attack,” the 28-year-old Australian said.
Ito said he believed his team would prevail again. “We are not familiar with the course, but I think we can win the stage,” he said. The last stage of the 854 kilometer race finishes in Padang on Sunday.