What a way to finish the Tour De Taiwan: a great team performance saw Joe Blackmore crowned this year’s champion after claiming enough bonus seconds to move up from fourth to first on GC in Thursday’s finale, before Itamar Einhorn sprinted to the stage victory in Kaohsiung City.

These wins take IPT to 13 victories for 2024, moving it past its tally for the entire 2023 season by the middle of March.

There’s nothing like the sweet taste of comeback victories against all odds. This is true for so many sports, and today in Taiwan, IPT’s five riders proved – with an inspiring Israeli hero of the day in Einhorn – that the formula works in cycling races too.

British rider Blackmore started the final stage in Kaohsiung City, one that was widely tipped to be a day for the sprinters, five seconds down on GC. Because the day’s hardest climb ended just after the middle of the stage, the chances of closing that gap looked extremely small. After stage 2 winner Mason Hollyman painfully lost the yellow jersey on Wednesday, it appeared that IPT would struggle to get it back.

However, in a team meeting held late last night in a somewhat somber atmosphere, the first signs of a possible turnaround were seen. “We can do this,” Einhorn told his teammates. He promised Blackmore that he would do everything in his power to help him win the first intermediate sprint, gain three bonus seconds, and reduce the gap. The plan was that if it worked, Einhorn, the strongest sprinter in the race without question, as proven by his dominant stage one victory in Taipei City – would give up his chance to win the stage himself and spend the rest of his energy to help his British friend create a turnaround.

And he did exactly what he promised. Einhorn noticed that the yellow jersey – Spaniard Ivan Cobo (EKP) – was tired after chasing a breakaway in the twentieth kilometer of the race. The Israeli took the opportunity and attacked, pulling his teammates up a steep hill. Many riders from other teams joined and broke away from the surprised peloton; behind, the yellow jersey lost contact, and practically dropped out of the picture from that point.

Joe Blackmore, Tour de Taiwan 2024 stage 5

It was the moment the whole team believed the mission was possible. “We went full gas until the end,” Einhorn said. “It was clear to us that we were leading Joe in all the remaining sprints.” Blackmore, undoubtedly a rising global racing star having most recently won the Tour of Rwanda, did not disappoint and used the lead-out from Einhorn and his three other teammates to win two sprints and finish second in the other along the way, collecting eight seconds to make him the virtual race leader.

But to ensure Blackmore won the GC, the team had to ensure none of his other rivals would win at the finish and take the bonus seconds available there. The executioner’s role was again taken on by the Israeli champion.

In the final sprint, Einhorn rushed to a personal victory decided by mere centimeters – this time with help from his British friend. “He returned the favor,” he smiled.

Itamar Einhorn, Tour de Taiwan 2024 stage 5

Blackmore beat Japanese runner-up Yuma Koishi by four seconds overall, with Australian Carter Bettles completing the podium.

“It was just perfect,” said Blackmore. “Itamar and everyone did everything to help me achieve this. It was full gas all day. But going into the virtual yellow jersey, and then doing a good lead-out for Itamar to win the stage, it was a perfect day. I believed it was possible, but it would be hard to do! But we did do it, so yeah, I’m super happy.”

Recalling the team meeting on the eve of the stage, Einhorn explained why he felt that Blackmore could emerge triumphant from the race. “I knew that if we rode as if we had nothing to lose, we could do it,” he said. “It’s one of the most perfect days I’ve experienced in racing.”

Sports Director Ruben Plaza summed up the great day most accurately: “Today, the guys didn’t ride like a team. They rode like best friends”.

IPT team owner Sylvan Adams congratulated the squad: “I’m very proud of our team’s performance at the Tour de Taiwan. As our Sports Director Ruben Plaza said after the final stage about riding like the best of friends. Great teamwork on the last day to secure both Itamar’s stage win, and Joe’s victory on the GC. I hope this provides some good news for Israel during these difficult days.”

Celebrations, Tour de Taiwan 2024 stage 5