History was made on Australian shores last Sunday by Israel’s professional road cycling franchise – Israel Premier Tech (IPT) – when one of its riders earned a UCI WorldTour multi-day race win for the first time.
Welshman Stephen Williams, 27, raised his arms in triumph when crossing the finish line first in the sixth and final stage of the season-opening Tour Down Under, in South Australia’s Mount Lofty ranges, securing the general classification win, in a world-class field of 130 finishers.
As part of a seven-strong IPT squad, which nailed second place out of 11 in the teams standings, Williams began the hilly final stage wearing the leader’s ochre jersey, and with willing support, paced himself perfectly near the front of a small leading group in the last descent.
In a show of class, he made his move with 250m to go, sprinting ahead to clinch the race win, and the general classification title by nine seconds, over Jhonatan Narvaez from team Ineos Grenadiers, and rising star Isaac Del Toro, from UAE Team Emirates, another two seconds adrift.
“What a stage,” Williams said, explaining, “I thought if I got the jump [near the finish], I would be in with a good chance”.
“I would always back myself coming into it in a small, select group like that, and to do it in this [ochre] jersey as well, makes it even more special.”
“I can’t thank them [his teammates, including Aussie Simon Clarke] enough.
“With the calibre of riders we had . . . we weren’t here to make up numbers.”
Before departing Australia, team IPT will compete in this Sunday’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.