ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast rider Taj Jones has taken the biggest win of his young career in stage two of the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia.
The 19 year old rider from Palmwoods imposed himself in the final bunch sprint, taking the win ahead of World Tour professional rider Max Walscheid (NTT Pro Cycling) and Jérémy Lecroq (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept).
“I’m pretty stoked. The tactic today was wait, wait, wait and make a late dash towards the end. My team did a great job taking me up towards the front. We’ve been working on it for a while. They put me in a perfect position for the last 200 metres,” Taj said.
A five-man breakaway was formed before the 20km mark with Mattia Viel (Androni Giocatolli-Sidermec), Alessandro Iacchi (Vini Zabù-KTM), Rylee Field (Bridgelane), Nur Aiman Zariff (Sapura) and Colby Lange (Wildlife Generation). The break stretched to a time gap of 4’50’’ before the peloton began to bring the race back together.
Race leader Yevgeniy Fedorov of the Vino Astana team set the tempo of the peloton with the Thailand Continental team also contributing. With 25km to go, fellow Australian Rylee Field attacked to remain the only rider at the front. As NTT Pro Cycling seized the reins of the field 20km before the end, Field got reeled in within 3km to go to give way to his compatriot Jones who surged in the bunch gallop.
ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast director Ben Kersten said it’s the biggest win of Jones’s career so far.
“He hasn’t won a domestic race yet and now he’s taken a win in a UCI 2. Professional race, which is the highest category our pro continental team can race,” Ben said.
“Taj has been working incredibly hard all summer in Australia and has been in crazy good form in training. So as a result he was given the responsibility of team leader for the sprint stages in this race and he’s really repaid the faith shown in him by the team with this win,” Ben said.
“The team has been looking after me very well to bring me to this level,” said Jones.
“I’d like to become a rider for the classics but this is my first year racing overseas. Winning a stage at Le Tour de Langkawi, I didn’t know that I was following the footstep of riders of such a calibre as my compatriots Stuart O’Grady, Michael Matthews and Caleb Ewan who have won bunch sprints here before. I only started riding my bike three years ago. It’s amazing.”
Jones heads into stage three of the Tour today in the sprinter’s green jersey.
The 8 stage tour is the 25th anniversary of the Tour de Langkawi, one of the most prestigious races on the tough Asian racing calendar.