Today Kenyan Riders Downunder set a new performance benchmark for themselves - they achieved a podium finish - 3rd in the inaugural Tour de Flores, a HCI 2.2 tour. Jason Christie won the first stage and the sprinter’s jersey. He kept the sprinter’s jersey till the end of stage 3 despite a terrible crash in stage 2.
According to CyclingIQ, the Tour de Flores is a different beast of a race because “there isn’t a single stage that can be said to favour sprinters. Every one of the five stages in this week’s race contains climbs that are either Cat 1, Hors catégorie, or a combination of the two.”
Their journey in the inaugural Tour de Flores was almost a perfect reflection of the mountainous terrain of every one of the 5 stages that made up this tour with each stage filled with unexpected setbacks and nail biting finishes.
Garry Elliott, KRD’s Director of Sport is our guest blogger for this edition and here’s his account of the team’s performance during this tour.
Stage One Jason told me he would win the stage before the start. They set off for stage one and it wasn’t long before Mwangi and Jason were in the winning move. The breakaway consisted of 9 riders with 3 teams with two riders in it. With approx 1.5 km to go Mwangi attacked the break and got a 7 second lead. I thought this could be the first win at Continental level for Mwangi.
Jase sat on and waited for them to chase as they looked at each other. Finally Kinan rider chased, and then Jason came off his wheel to take the stage as they caught Mwangi. This is REAL TEAM WORK at its best.
Jason's stage win was featured on BeritaSatu TV (Indonesian TV network) as a prime time segment.
Stage 2 was a hard and hilly stage. I wanted Jason to teach the boys how to defend the jersey as we believed we could hold this until stage 4 of this tour. The boys rode the front like pro’s, and listened to Jase and his instructions. We had flat tires and attacks thrown at them all day yet they controlled the race so that we could wear the jersey another day. Unfortunately with 15km to go Jason had a double flat at 70km hr on a decent which sent him flying into a concrete ditch. He managed after 10 minutes to get back on his bike and chase the best he could. This put a real dampener on all our hard work.
Stage three we decided we must continue for team classification and chase the sprinter’s jersey for as long as possible. Currently we were in 5th place on Teams and wanted to make the podium after the five stages. Jason went early in a move and grabs maximum points for the jersey even though he was in extreme pain with his face all swollen and his right side all bruised. We also had another bad day with flats but the boys all managed to finish close to the front of the race and push the team into 4th on teams. We also managed to hold onto the sprinters Jersey.
Stage four was a strange stage as it started with a 35 km downhill with over 300 bends in it! I saw Jason at the back of the peloton not looking real comfortable. I withdrew Jason from the tour at this point and now it was up to the Kenyans to ride themselves onto the podium for teams. They did this, and we became third on teams 10 minutes behind 2nd place.
Stage 5 the hardest stage of the tour I believe. After our meeting we had a plan to isolate as many riders as possible for 7 Eleven team and try to gain the 10 minutes and move the team into 2nd Position. This day I was very nervous for them, they were all confident but I thought we could lose badly and maybe not even get a podium at all and drop right back to 10th on teams.
They had a real good warm up as in the first 10km they had their first Hors catégorie (HC) climb. Within the first 30km of the race there were riders all over the place. In fact, over 50 riders had been spat from the front of the race. No Kenyans! OMG! They are riding strong.
They managed to all finish in the top 20 of riders that finished the stage. We just missed out on second by 1 minute. What a ride from these guys! We had lots of positive comments from World Tour riders and from Commissars saying we are a real strong team at CT (UCI Continental) level and will be watching this team go places in the future.
Overall we went into this tour to ride a good teams classification, we ended up with third on Teams, one a stage lead the tour were first team in stage one and held the sprinters jersey for three stages.
What a marketing opportunity for a company to get on board with - we showed the Asia Tour we deserve to be there.
To appropriate an Indonesian phrase. KRD BOLEH - which translates to KRD CAN ACHIEVE. And achieve they did.
Also, do read Jason Christie’s engaging account of his experiences in the Tour de Flores.
- Special thanks to Mohd Mokhriz Aziz of MOQA Services, Shah Alam, Malaysia for letting KRD use his photos gratis
- Video and photos by Simon Blake
- Newsreel from BeritaSatu TV