It looked like Theo Bos’ lead-out train didn’t even start sprinting when Lars Boom, Moreno Hofland and Tom Leezer crossed the line in that order in Dongfang on stage 7. Doing so, Belkin became the world’s second most successful ProTeam of the year behind Omega Pharma-QuickStep with a total of 35 victories that is very likely to be improved by the overall win set to be scored by Hofland.
“It wasn’t really our goal but we expected the last corner to be further from the finish than it actually was," Bos explained. “I lost the wheels of my lead-out men in the last corner and I thought it was no problem but I saw the finish line very close, so it became a very short sprint. In this particular finale, it was difficult for the riders in sixth or seventh position to follow the first guys taking the curve. I was lucky that I didn’t have to brake but behind me, they had to. The road leading to the finish line was also a little bit downhill. That’s why the first four riders at the corner stayed at the first four places.”
The big question mark over stage 7 was whether or not Bos would survive the first category climb located in the first ten kilometers of the race after leaving Wuzhishan. Up the hill, the first battle was for the King of the Mountain competition. Polka dot jersey wearer Vitaly Buts of the Ukraine wasn’t able to follow an attack by CCC Polsat four kilometers before the summit. Bulgaria’s Nikolay Mikhaylov paved the way for Mateusz Taciak to take the lead.
“Since we don’t have a chance to win a stage due to Belkin’s domination, the polka dot jersey has become our goal," Taciak told Cyclingnews.
Belkin’s super-domestique Marc Goos set the tempo at the front of the peloton to prevent any danger for Hofland as the race leader, but Bos and a few other riders lost contact. “I got dropped from the second group and I found myself in a grupetto at the end of the downhill," Bos said. “If a team didn’t want me back and decided to pull, I’d never have come back, but eventually a breakaway went and no team chased. That was my chance to make it back to the peloton who slowed down.”
Ukraine’s Serhiy Langkoti stayed away from km 50 to km 200, with up to a five minute lead and the late reinforcement of Samir Jabrayilov (Synergy Baku) and Wu Shengjun (Qinghai Tanyoude) but it came down to a bunch sprint as the race approached to coastal city of Dangfong on the west coast of the sunny Hainan island.
“We don’t give any stage away," Bos commented. “Maybe in such a situation, it doesn’t look nice that we don’t give any other team a chance to win but it’s also a professional sport. We train hard to win races. We take the Tour of Hainan very seriously. Today with 35 victories for the whole 2013 season, Belkin becomes the second most successful team in the world by the numbers behind Omega Pharma-Quick Step (53).
"We’re making history for ourselves and for the Tour of Hainan. In our country, the Netherlands, the race is in the news every day. To get a better ranking for the team in terms of victories boosts our motivation for next year. It’s nice to finish the season this way but today we also learned about our lead-out. I don’t know if it has happened before that this team [formerly known as Rabobank] has won so much, we may not be the best team in the world but we’re definitely on the right track in all aspects of racing: in the Classics, overall classifications in Grand Tours and sprinting as well.”
Hofland looks very close to his first big win in a hors-category stage race. “Tomorrow is the last stage with a few hills." noted the 21-year-old who has led the race since day 1. “Looking at the profile, I should be able to survive in the first group. I’ll give everything and it should be ok.”
|1||Theo Bos (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||5:13:57|
|2||Lars Boom (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team|
|3||Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team|
|4||Thomas Leezer (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team|
|5||Yuriy Metlushenko (Ukr) Ukraine|
|6||Thomas Palmer (Aus) Drapac Cycling|
|7||Yannick Martinez (Fra) La Pomme Marseille|
|8||Andris Smirnovs (Lat) Rietumu-Delfin|
|9||Rico Dene Thomas Rogers (Aus) Synergy Baku Cycling Project|
|10||Christophe Premont (Bel) Crelan-Euphony|
|1||Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||25:48:16|
|2||Frédéric Amorison (Bel) Crelan-Euphony||0:00:57|
|3||Thomas Leezer (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||0:01:04|
|4||Fabian Schnaidt (Ger) Champion System Pro Cycling Team||0:01:08|
|5||Jos Van Emden (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team|
|6||Kevin Peeters (Bel) Crelan-Euphony||0:01:09|
|7||José Gonçalves (Por) La Pomme Marseille||0:01:10|
|8||William Walker (Aus) Drapac Cycling||0:01:11|
|9||Christopher Williams (Aus) Team Novo Nordisk|
|10||Mykhailo Kononenko (Ukr) Ukraine||0:01:12|