For Tim Wellens the Tour of Guangxi was a late season target and opportunity for his first stage race win of the year. While the majority of the WorldTour peloton was enjoying the off-season, Wellens was on form in China and with support from his Lotto Soudal teammates, he secured his seventh victory of 2017.
The foundations for Wellens' overall win were laid on stage 4, winning at the Nongla finish ahead of Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing). Wellens increased his lead by two seconds the following day, with Lotto Soudal then controlling any attacks from his GC rivals to ensure overall success.
With two wins in 2014, three in 2015, and four in 2016, the victory also ensured that Wellens' upward trajectory continued for a fourth season.
"I am very happy with my season. I have seven wins with a lot of WorldTour success also," Wellens said.
“Every year I am growing. Every year I set the bar a little higher to perform so at the moment, with five victories I was not really happy with the season. But, like I said, every year must be better and now I win this nice tour and I am very happy with 2017.”
The Tour of Guangxi victory confirms Wellens as a successful one-week WorldTour stage racer, with previous overall wins at the Eneco Tour and Tour de Pologne. The 26-year-old also has top-10 results at the Tour of Beijing, Paris-Nice, and Eneco Tour. Wellens' palmarès also includes a GP de Montréal victory and a stage of the Giro d'Italia, highlighting his versatility.
Although Wellens has steadily improved since his neo-pro season and taken 12 of his 22 wins at WorldTour level, the Belgian has regularly peaked at the beginning and end of seasons. Along with his late-season Chinese heist, Wellens started the season with two wins in Mallorca. He admits, he does not know why he peaks at season start and end.
"I have no idea. Every year it is like this. Only last year, in the end, I was not super anymore because I had a hard season. Normally, from when I was little to now, every time in the beginning and end I am very good, but I have no explanation," he said.
No GC focus at the Grand Tours
Since turning professional with Lotto Soudal, Wellens has ridden just one Grand Tour a season, alternating between the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. At 26, Wellens is approaching his prime years as an athlete and having proven his GC capabilities, a tilt at a Grand Tours is the logical progression. However, Wellens has identified his strength is one-week races and is only interested in focusing on stage wins at the three-week races.
In recent years, only Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Richie Porte (BMC Racing) have better win rates in the one-week WorldTour stages races then Wellens. Despite matching the five-time Tour winner and Grand Tour podium contender respectively, Wellens won't be leading Lotto-Soudal's GC tilt at the Grand Tours anytime soon.
"I don't really like the GC at the Grand Tours because every day you have to protect yourself and every day it is nervous," he said. “Maybe one day you are sick or have a bad day and everything is lost. I prefer to go for stage wins. I have more satisfaction with this. Tours of one week really suit me and I try to have one GC win every year."
With Lotto Soudal's 25th win of the season confirmed, Wellens and his teammates jetted out of China for Hong Kong with Adam Hansen playing guide. A break will then follow for Wellens before meeting with the team and deciding his objectives for the 2018 season. With the Paris-Nice and Vuelta al Pais Vasco his likely early-season targets with Wellens aiming to match his seven wins and win consistently through the season.
"It is a little bit early to already talk about next year. First a holiday then we discuss the programme. I don't know yet what I am going to do next year," said Wellens.