Over the weekend of March 8th – 10th 2019 a strong field of 76 Elite riders took to the roads of Phuket and Phang Nga to race around 240 kilometres over 3 days.
The 2019 edition of the Tour of Phuket saw an increase in the Elite field verses the 2018 edition. Up from 26 riders to 76 riders. With this increase the number of teams went from 4 to 10 (teams consisting of 3 or more riders).
The Stage 3 route differed from 2018 due to road works. However the general parcours were in line with the previous edition. Saturday consisted of a 137 kilometre stage with a mere 800 metres of elevation. Sunday consisted of 102 kilometres with 900 metres of elevation.
The 2018 Tour of Phuket was won on the Friday ITT, lets break down the 2019 edition and take a look at how the race was won.
Tour of Phuket – Stage 1 – 4.4 kilometres
The course was 4.4 kilometres in length with no significant change in elevation; the road sweeps around Phuket Gateway and with coastal areas wrapping around the gateway the wind was to play a factor.
The start times of the Time Trial this year were confusing. Typically riders start according to previous results, seeding riders and building to the faster riders later in the session. Diverting from the defacto standard, Cycosports started riders in numerical order, according picked alphabetically.
Rolling a practice lap at 14:00 the wind was low, the course felt fast and I thought we would see some record times. By the time I set off (16:47) the wind had picked up and the course felt more challenging than the previous year.
Previous ITT (and tour) winner Ben (Specialized Roval Mavericks) set the initial fast time of 05:47.87 (45.84 kph), sitting in the hot seat for a while. This year’s time was almost 20 seconds slower than the previous year suggesting the wind was a serious factor.
As more riders took to the course the top 5 riders were separated by less than 1 second. Towards the end of the session faster times rolled across the finish line and the gaps started to show.
- 05:36.29 – Thom (matadorRACING) at a pace of 47.2 kph
- 05:40.14 – Boon (CyclingTraining.CC) at a pace of 46.89 kph
- 05:41.30 – Jambaljamts (Roojai.com cycling team) at a pace of 46.73 kph
Thom (matadorRACING) took the leaders jersey into Stage 2 with Boon (CyclingTraining.CC) in 2nd place (4 seconds) and Jambaljamts (Roojai.com cycling team) in 3rd place (5 seconds).
It’s interesting to note that the winning time this year was roughly 8 second slower than in 2018.
Tour of Phuket – Stage 2 – 137 kilometres
The course in 2019 came unchanged from 2018. Better signage on course meant no riders were off course this year. The whole peloton rode both climbs and the total distance of 137 kilometeres.
The distance was reduced by close to 4 kilometres as the start was moved to the mainland so less logistical challenges were to be faced. The course consisted of one opportunity to gain Sprint points (37 kilometres), and two opportunities to gain KOM points (62 kilometres and 102 kilometres).
Stage 2 – Racing
Racing started with an unclear signal from race control. A number of riders attempted to form the early breakaway before being blocked by race control causing the race to reform, twice. The race got underway after 12 kilometres of unusual neutralisation.
The intermediary sprint at 37 kilometres saw the first crashes of the day. Too many riders contesting the sprint saw a touch of wheels as a result a few riders hit the deck at over 50 kph.
Immediately following the sprint the breakaway of the day was allowed to go up the road. A solo 70 kilometre ride followed in my attempt to take the KOM jersey.
The descent of the first KOM claimed a few riders as many were unprepared for the steep descent and off camber corners at high speeds. The bunch was reduced at this point.
Being caught a couple of hundred metres before the base of the second climb was a bit disappointing for me, however racing’s racing.
Stage 2 – The Final
The final of stage 2 starting immediately after the second KOM consisting of a 32 kilometre run into the finish line. This year the reduced peloton raced the final at an average speed of 42.3 kph. Which was faster than the 2018 edition of the race.
As the (already) reduced bunch climbed the second KOM gaps were forming and anyone out of position here would have to spend energy to rejoin the front group.
The matadorRACING team still had good representation in the front and were keen to close down any threats to the leaders jersey, as such they controlled the pace to the finish line.
The last 5 kilometres were perhaps a little more sedate this year, or a headwind was present. The distance covered in 7:06 making for an average speed of 42.3 kph.
Three men fought it out in the last few metres. A photo finish shows the three riders, separated by less than 10 cm at the line.
- Sakchai (AeroUp x Royal Thai Police Cycling) – 3:23:06
- Thom (matadorRACING) – 3:23:06 (+0:00)
- Boon (CyclingTraining.CC) – 3:23:06 (+0:00)
With time bonus’ of 10, 6 and 4 seconds the gap between Thom and Boon grew by 1 second. The top 10 still separated by only 17 seconds.
The winners crossed the line with an average speed of 40.47 kph
Stage 2 – General Classification
- Thom (matadorRACING) 3:28:37.2
- Boon (CyclingTraining.CC) +0:05
- Jambaljamts (Roojai.com cycling team) + 0:11
With the time bonus on Stage 3 the race was still open and some opportunistic riders may shake up the General Classification with a breakaway, or a stage win with a small gap to the peloton.
Tour of Phuket – Stage 3 – 102 kilometres
The final stage of the Tour was to race 2 loops around Phang Nga bay therefore providing two opportunities to secure KOM points (16.8 kilometres and 62.3 kilometres) and one opportunity to secure Sprint points (45 kilometres).
There were no jerseys for Sprints or KOM so the points were somewhat confusing, but provided a platform to animate the race nonetheless.
Stage 3 – Racing
Chatter before the stage was somewhat calling for fireworks from the gun in an attempt to pressure the jersey off the matadorRACING team.
Roojai.com cycling team set a fast pace in the initial 17 kilometres in what appeared to be an attempt to secure the KOM points. Immediately following the first KOM crest the peloton furiously attacked causing many cracks in the group. The matadorRACING team, coupled with the riders vying for overall glory helped close down all attacks.
No group managed to stay clear until after the second KOM climb. Todd (CyclingTraining.CC) and Pierre-Alain (AlliedWorld – Treknology3) took a small gap in a short lul of pace as the peloton turned left into the small village roads.
Stage 3 – The Final
The video shows the breakaway in the final 15 kilometres. The two riders enjoying a small gap for over 10 kilometres (from the second KOM) before the peloton allowed a small selection of riders to join the breakaway ultimately leaving 8 riders up front.
The matadorRACING team went to panic stations as all other teams were represented in the breakaway. The cat and mouse game of breakaway vs peloton was immensely fun. The teams in the peloton either worked to let the breakaway gap grow, or furiously worked to close the gap.
The finish of Stage 3 sharing the finish of Stage 2 meant everyone had a dress rehearsal on Saturday for the days finish.
Thom (matadorRACING) came to the front in the last 5 kilometres in a last effort to save his leaders jersey. The breakaway was still away and the strong efforts of the matadorRACING team were showing as nobody else was able to join the chase at the pointy end of the bunch.
The breakaway group held a slim margin of 6 seconds to the chasing peloton across the finish line.
- Valentin (Bike Center Phuket) – 2:24:40.1
- Paul (UNFND CC) – 2:24:40.1 (+0:00)
- Pichet (NICH) – 2:24:40.1 (+0:00)
The winners crossed the line with an average speed of 42.30 kph. Sunday was a much faster race than Saturday. Given the extra elevation and shorter distance the intensity on Sunday was definitely high.
Stage 3 – General Classification
With the time bonus on the line the top 3 in GC were in danger.
- Thom (matadorRACING) – 5:53:24.1
- Paul (UNFND CC) – 5:53:25.9 (+0:01)
- Jambaljamts (Roojai.com cycling team) – 5:53:28.3 (+0:04)
Paul (UNFND CC) took a 6 second bonus, plus the 6 second gap meant he ultimately gained 12 seconds on Thom (matadorRACING) however this was not enough to secure the overall lead placing him in 2nd overall.
Jambaljamts (Roojai.com cycling team) gained 6 seconds on Thom (matadorRACING) closing the gap to 4 seconds, but not changing his overall GC position.
How the race was won?
Similar to 2018 the race was won by in the ITT on Friday. Albeit by a narrower margin. Thom (matadorRACING) took the lead on Friday and held onto it until the finish on Sunday.
Had the matadorRACING team not have sent a full team it would be fair to suggest they may not have held the leaders jersey on Sunday.
Thom’s (matadorRACING) effort in the final 5 kilometres the final day most certainly secured him the overall leaders jersey. The bunch was very close to sitting up and allowing the breakaway to decide the final results.
Time bonus in the Tour of [ed] Phuket can play a part in deciding the overall victory, however in 2019 [ed] it was only one rider who gained and held the jersey throughout
Again the race is one for the Puncheurs. The forth edition of the Tour of Phuket gained traction on last year and was run fantastically.
A huge thanks goes out to Singha, Nich and Unfound for coming on-board as sponsors of the race.
I hope to see the 2020 edition grow and attract an even larger pool of riders and talent to secure this race as a prominent feature on the Asian calendar.
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