RUNNER-UP: Taj Jones Team ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast came second in the sprinter’s classification at the Tour of Langkawi. Picture: Phil Walter/Getty Images.
RUNNER-UP: Taj Jones Team ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast came second in the sprinter’s classification at the Tour of Langkawi. Picture: Phil Walter/Getty Images.

Team boss proud of efforts in Malaysia, where teen shines

CYCLING: ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast managing director Ben Kersten has hailed teenager Taj Jones and the team after their Tour of Langkawi campaign.

The 19-year-old finished second in the sprinter’s classification on 55 points, behind German Pro Tour rider Max Walscheid, of NTT Pro Cycling (65 points).

Kersten said they would leave Malaysia with a sense of satisfaction.

“Taj, at 19 years old, to be a standout rider this tour, is a massive takeaway and something we can be really proud of,” he said.

“We’ve run dual teams during the last week, with one at the Sun Herald Tour and one here, so we’ve had to split resources. And they’ve delivered and we couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Jones won stage two during the 2.Pro race in Malaysia and tried desperately to snatch the green jersey on the eighth and final 108.5km stage into Kuah. He was third there, behind Walscheid.

ON THE ROAD: Taj Jones (centre) during the Tour of Langkawi. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images.
ON THE ROAD: Taj Jones (centre) during the Tour of Langkawi. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images.

“It was an epic stage,” Kersten said.

“We went out to win the first (intermediate) sprint, lost a few riders, and didn’t win that so we were all in for the finish.

“Amarni (Gates), Zac (Gilmore) and Al (Donohoe) rode (well) for a bunch sprint but we just got beaten by a better bike rider on the day.”

Jones said things went awry.

“I had the full support of the guys … they kept the pace high towards the end, kept me on max, but I just couldn’t get to the sprint, with a bit of a mechanical (issue).”

Meanwhile, fellow Pro Racing Sunshine Coast riders were in the thick of action in Victoria.

Michael Freiberg, the 2018 national road racing champion, claimed second place in the 104th edition of the Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic.

After more than 6hrs in the 262km race, he was edged by Brendan Johnston (Team CSC Canberra) in a four-man sprint to the line.

And Michael Rice won the inaugural Lady Bay Resort Middle Island Criterium, after a sprint to the line.

He defeated 2019 criterium national champion Brenton Jones and 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Steele von Hoff in the one-hour race, which involved a 1.6km course.

“I put in a pretty big summer with training and racing so it’s nice to finish (the summer) on a high,” he said.

Team-mates, Michael Potter and Freiberg were involved in breaks during the race.