Donnelly, a Huon Salmon Genesys representative, launched into a powerful sprint to romp home in 4’44:53 to clinch the 197.6km stage. Dutchman Lex Nederlof of CNN was second, three seconds behind. Sea Keong of OCBC Singapore finished third, nine seconds off the pace.
“I wasn’t confident at first to win the stage if it came to a three-up sprint. But it was a long stage and I probably had a little bit more in the tank to outsprint them,” said the 22-year-old Donnelly.
“When the duo (Sea Keong and Nederlof) jumped, everybody else in the group just looked at each other. That was when I decided to join them too,” added Donnelly.
Synergy Baku Cycling Project initially worked hard to protect Russian Kiril Pozdnyakov who wore the leader’s yellow jersey after winning the opening 187.7km stage from Bukit Jalil to Rembau on Wednesday. But a flurry of attacks made life difficult for the team. In the end, Pozdnyakov finished 57th, 1:08 behind Donnelly.
Four riders – Goh Choon Huat (OCBC Singapore), Denver Cayasuran (LBC Cycling), Daniel Bonello (Corbusier) and Sota Ikebe (Matrix Powertag) started the ball rolling by jumping clear from the peloton after the first categorised climb (Category 4) at Gemencheh. After 33.8km of the stage, they managed to build a gap of 8:35.
Sea Keong, Donnelly, Nederlof and Sergey Kuzmin (Polygon) then decided to join in the fun with about 43km to go.
Terengganu Cycling team soon realised that it would be difficult to set up a bunch sprint and sent Mohd Saiful Anuar Aziz to join the peloton with Mohd Rauf Nur Misbah (Malaysia) and Salahuddin Mat Saman (Police) in tow.
Mark Lexer Galedo (7-Eleven), Edgar Nohales (Polygon Sweet Nice) and Aldi Apriani (Custom Cycling) made the jump to the front group soon after making it a strong 14-man break.
But with 5km to go, Sea Keong decided to go on his own.
He was soon followed by Nederlof and Donnelly.
It was Donnelly who showed his prowess in the sprint as he powered past the duo to the finish line.
“I expected it to finish with a bunch sprint because the course suits the sprinters. But as we made a huge gap on the leader, they decided to just go for it. I never thought we could make a substantial gap on the leader as they (Baku) have been working hard since the start of the race to control everything,” said Sea Keong.
“I know the team will try to defend my position tomorrow (today). Even if we failed, it won’t be for the lack of trying,” said Sea Keong.
Sea Keong now holds a 14-second lead over Kuzmin in the general classification. Pozdnyakov dropped to third, 41 seconds behind.
Today’s Stage Three is from Batu Pahat to Pontian. It covers a distance of 94.7km with two sprint zones at Tampin and Segamat.
Rembau-Batu Pahat (197.6km): 1. Aaron Donnelly (Aus) Huon Salmon Genesys 4’44:53, 2. Lex Nederlof (Ned) CCN Cycling 3 seconds behind, 3. Loh Sea Keong (Mas) OCBC Singapore 9, 4. Jason Christie (Nzl) OCBC Singapore same time, 5. Mohd Faris Abdul Razak (Mas) Police 13, 6. Mohd Rauf Nur Misbah (Mas) Malaysia, 7. Mark Lexer Galedo (Phi) Team 7-Eleven, 8. Mohd Saiful Anuar Aziz (Mas) Terengganu Cycling same time, 9. Aldi Apriani (Ina) Custom Cycling 19, 10. Sergey Kuzmin (Kaz) Polygon Sweet Nice same time.
General classification: 1. Loh Sea Keong (Mas) OCBC Singapore 8’58:50, 2. Sergey Kuzmin (Kaz) Polygon Sweet Nice 14 seconds behind, 3. Kiril Pozdnyakov (Rus) Synergy Baku Cycling Project 41, 4. Adiq Husainie Othman (Mas) Malaysia 53, 5. Kazushige Kuboki (Jpn) Matrix Powertag 59.
Points classification: 1. Loh Sea Keong (Mas) OCBC Singapore 22 pts, 2. Adiq Husainie Othman (Mas) Malaysia 20, 3. Mohd Harrif Salleh (Mas) Terengganu Cycling 17.
Mountain classification: 1. Lim Rustom (Phi) LBC Cycling 6 pts, 2. Mohd Zamri Salleh (Mas) Terengganu Cycling 5, 3. Adiq Husainie Othman (Mas) Malaysia 4.
Best Asian rider: 1. Loh Sea Keong (Mas) OCBC Singapore 8’58:50, 2. Sergey Kuzmin (Kaz) Polygon Sweet Nice 14 seconds behind, 3. Adiq Husainie Othman (Mas) Malaysia 53.