Korea's Kim Okcheol (Seoul Cycling) won Thursday's stage 2 of the Tour of Fuzhou ahead of Mehdi Sohrabi (Tabriz Shahrdari) as the breakaway duo managed to fend off the peloton all the way to the line. There was no sprint between the two at the finish, however, as Iranian national champion Sohrabi had promised Okcheol the stage win as a reward for his efficient pulling.
"Yesterday was my birthday but I'm not a climber so I couldn't make myself a gift," the 22-year-old stage winner told Cyclingnews. "But today I wanted to give it a try. My favourite terrain is the flat. But I wasn't sure of my condition because my last road race was the Olympics. I started but I didn't finish. The level was so high with riders like Peter Sagan and Chris Froome. And my last stage race was the Tour of Korea in June. Since August, I only took part in track events in Korea. Today we attacked after 40km but luckily, we didn't ride fast until 5km to go."
Kim and Sohrabi were accompanied at the front by Uzbek rider Akramjon Sunnatov of Beijing Innova. It looked like a standard breakaway set to get caught, but with 20km to go their advantage was holding steady at two minutes as the peloton left the Pishgaman Giant Team of race leader Rahim Emami to do all the pulling. The other teams in the bunch finally got into gear inside the final 10km, but by then it was too late.
"It was pretty chaotic in the final five kilometers," third-placed Luke Parker (Attaque Team Gusto) explained. "The race was on to bring the break back. There was a pretty decent crash, probably at about three k to go. I managed to stay in front of that and in the last kilometer I had my team mate Ben Hill with me. He led out with about 800m to go. I was in a perfect position for the sprint but unfortunately there were two riders still up the road so I managed to get third but the break stayed away. I don't know why we didn't catch the break."
Having dropped Sunnatov earlier, Kim and Sohrabi made for an unusual sight arriving at the finish line without even sprinting despite the hard-charging peloton just behind them, but both revealed they had sealed a deal. "I told him: if you go full gas, you'll win it," Sohrabi said. "Had we watched or fought each other, we would probably have been caught. I don't like taking risks. Second is better than nothing. I haven't raced or trained well for three months [Tabriz Shahrdari had not raced since the Tour of Qinghai Lake in July]. My legs weren't good until the last 25km but the Korean was still better than me. This is cycling. He deserved to win."
Sohrabi was true to his words, although he is a strong sprinter. Aged 35, he rode for Lotto-Belisol in the WorldTour in 2012 when there were multiple teams competing for a spot in the top tier and points won on the Asia Tour had some value worldwide.
The sprinters might have a second chance in stage 3 from Gui An to LianJiang People's Square ahead of Saturday's queen stage, although two climbs are featured in the 133.3km long stage.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Okcheol Kim (Kor) Seoul Cycling Team||2:48:57|
|2||Mehdi Sohrabi (IRI) Tabriz Shahrdari Team|
|3||Luke Parker (Aus) Attaque Team Gusto||0:00:06|
|4||Emils Liepins (Lat) Rietumu-Delfin|
|5||Siarhei Papok (Blr) Minsk Cycling Club|
|6||Hajeon Jung (Kor) Seoul Cycling Team|
|7||Peeter Pruus (Est) Rietumu-Delfin|
|8||Xiaoyong Dong (Chn) Qinghai Tianyoude Cycling Team|
|9||Brandon Feehery (USA) Astellas Cycling Team|
|10||Andris Vosekalns (Lat) Rietumu-Delfin|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Rahim Emami (IRI) Pishgaman Giant Team||5:29:28|
|2||Arvin Moazami Godarzi (IRI) Pishgaman Giant Team||0:00:16|
|3||Peter Schulting (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg Continental Team||0:00:18|
|4||Hamid Pourhashemi (IRI) Pishgaman Giant Team||0:00:27|
|5||Hossaini Reza (IRI) Pishgaman Giant Team||0:00:33|
|6||Amir Kolahdouz Hagh (IRI) Pishgaman Giant Team||0:00:41|
|7||Ahad Kazemi (IRI) Tabriz Shahrdari Team||0:01:13|
|8||Francisco Jarley Colorado Hernandez (Col) RTS - Santic Racing Team||0:01:17|
|9||Saeid Safarzadeh (IRI) Tabriz Shahrdari Team||0:01:32|
|10||Sven Luijk (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg Continental Team||0:01:37|