Niccolò Bonifazio of Lampre-Merida put an end to Belkin’s winning streak of 10 stages at the Tour of Hainan – nine in 2013 and stage 1 this year – as the 20-year-old Italian took stage 2 in a bunch gallop in Haikou ahead of Drapac’s Wouter Wippert and his teammate Andrea Palini. Bonifazio is also the new overall leader, now ahead of the previous day's stage winner Moreno Hofland who remains equal on time.
“Yesterday we didn’t manage to sprint well," Bonifazio commented. “We’ve been a bit unlucky even though we got a good result. But today, we agreed about the order of our train from the start: [Roberto] Ferrari, Palini and myself. It turned out exactly as we wanted.”
The main breakaway of the day was formed of Wang Meiyin (Hengxiang), Oleksandr Surutkovych (Baku), Gu Ying Chuan (Giant-Champion System) and Saiful Aziz (Terengganu). They got a maximum advantage of nine minutes at half way into the race. Wang easily won all three intermediate sprints and thus took over from his teammate Ma Guangtong as leader of the Asian riders competition.
“I was very lucky to make the breakaway," Wang said. “I normally go well on the climbs but as there wasn’t any on the route today, I focused on those intermediate sprints and I gained nine seconds. I want to get more time bonuses in order to finish at the highest possible rank overall.”
Bai Li Jun (Giant-Champion System) and Chris Williams (Novo Nordisk) also tried their luck despite the rain pouring for more than an hour before the sunshine and blue sky reappeared for the finale but the bunch was all together again and racing at full speed with 40km to go.
“We had a tail wind to finish so it was a very fast sprint in the last 1300 metres today," second placed Wippert explained. “The lead out I got was perfect but we started just a little bit too far back and couldn’t finish it off with this tail wind. Yesterday I felt the jet lag badly. Today I was better and I hope I’ll be better again tomorrow to improve my result. There are still seven stages to go. It’s a long week of racing.”
Hofland wasn’t disappointed to get the pressure off. “I was a little bit too far back in the last corner and I tried to move up," he said. “But it didn’t go as planned. I had to go too early. I chose the right side of the road while the others were sprinting on the left. They were faster than me today. It feels good to let the jersey go though.
“Now it’ll be up to us to control the race," runner-up Palini said. “We’ll ask Belkin to cooperate because Hofland is equal on time and the race should remain like that until stage 7, which is going to be decisive for the overall win.
“It’s a complicated race to control," Bonifazio added. “Our teammates will help and we hope to keep the lead until the very end of the Tour of Hainan.” The day after the last stage, on October 29, the Italian from Imperia near San Remo in the Liguria region will turn 21.
As he already won stage 5 of the Tour of Japan in Tokyo and the Coppa Agostoni in Italy, he’s one of the most promising up and coming sprinters in the world. “Thanks to a lot of training, I’ve started my career pretty well," the fast neo pro said.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-Merida||5:04:50|
|2||Wouter Wippert (Ned) Drapac|
|3||Andrea Palini (Ita) Lampre-Merida|
|4||Jonathan Cantwell (Aus) Drapac|
|5||Yuri Metlushenko (Ukr) Ukraine|
|6||Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin|
|7||Ondrej Rybin (Cze) Dukla Praha|
|8||Ruslan Tleubayev (Kaz) Astana|
|9||Boris Shpilevsky (Rus) RTS-Santic Racing|
|10||Hariff Salleh (Mal) Terengganu Cycling Team|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-Merida||7:01:10|
|2||Andrea Palini (Ita) Lampre-Merida|
|3||Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin|
|4||Wang Meiyin (Chn) Hengxiang||0:00:01|
|5||Wouter Wippert (Ned) Drapac||0:00:04|
|6||Alex Surutkovich (Ukr) Synergy Baku||0:00:05|
|7||Ondrej Rybin (Cze) Dukla Praha||0:00:06|
|8||Dario Hernandez (Spa) Burgos-BH|
|9||Elchin Asadov (Aze) Synergy Baku||0:00:07|
|10||Martin Blaha (Cze) Dukla Praha|