Fly V Australia’s Ben Kersten burned up the tarmac of the F1 racing track in Singapore on Sunday to win the OCBC Cycle Singapore criterium.
Kersten out-kicked Michele Merlo (Footon-Servetto) to take the win by a bike length before thousands of fans lining the racetrack’s pit building.
The sun shone through heavy, damp air, pushing temperatures on the smooth, black asphalt of the auto course to nearly 100 degrees for the 12:30 p.m start. Riders poured water over their heads and spectators lined the second-story windows of the air-conditioned pit building as call-ups took place.
Current British and Australian national road champions Kristian House (Rapha Condor Sharp) and Travis Meyer (Garmin-Transitions) joined eventual winner Kersten on the front row.
Daniel Holloway (Bissell) led the bunch through the start/finish after the first lap and the first action in the bunch came three laps later when Fabio Felline (Footon-Servetto), who would go on to win the sprints classification, took a solo flyer.
The breakaways did not come easy on the long, sweeping corners and flat profile of the course encircling the Singapore Flyer – the world’s largest Ferris wheel. The group was together seven laps in and the cycle of small breaks sneaking away for a handful of laps at a time continued for much of the race.
The first dangerous split came 53 minutes into the race as Meyer went to the front and the peloton strung out single-file on the backside of the 2km course. The split allowed a group of five, including Guy East (Kelly Benefit Strategies), to escape, but the move was snubbed and it was gruppo compatto one lap later.
The most promising move came with 21 minutes remaining in what would be one hour and 40 minutes of racing. Darren Lapthorne (Rapha Condor Sharp) and Angus Morton (Drapac Porsche) jumped off the front and built a maximum advantage of 30 seconds. With only four riders per team, the peloton was slow to organize a chase and the move looked to be solid.
Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies) saw the strength of the move and with five laps to go bridged a 20-second gap to join the leaders. Lapthorne and Morton faded in the closing laps and with the peloton at 15 seconds Anthony attacked his break mates.
The American was able to build his lead back out to 20 seconds and appeared to be clear of the bunch heading into the final corner. The 500-meter finishing stretch was 200 meters too long for Anthony, however, and the Fly-V/Lampre-led peloton swept him up with 300 meters to go.
Kersten lit up the sprint from 150 meters to take his first international win of 2010. Merlo outstretched Angelo Furlan (Lampre-Farnese Vini) and Zak Dempster (Rapha Condor Sharp) for second. Ken Hanson led the Americans across in fifth after his leadout for teammate Aldo Ino Ilesic derailed with 1,000 meters to go.
Anthony was in the midst of a weeklong Asian stint for Kelly Benefit Strategies, which has partnered with Energizer Asia Pacific in 2010. The company employs approximately 700 marketing and manufacturing staff in Singapore.
“Schick has been an awesome host here and it’s nice to give them a good showing,” said Anthony. “I definitely have no regrets, but it’s frustrating to come so close and not get the result.”
Director Henk Vogels was on hand as Fly V Australia was also looking to put on a show for its title sponsor; Virgin Airlines is a popular carrier to the island. Kersten knew at the start that he was on top form and would not disappoint.
“Leading into it, I told the team I really wanted to win this. I’ve had the best form I’ve ever had,” he said at the finish.