After finishing second, third, fifth and second in the opening four stages of the Tour of Hainan, Italy’s Andrea Palini finally got the victory he was looking for in a rained soaked day of racing on a tropical island.
The Lampre-Merida team also doubled up with Niccolo Bonifazio in second place ahead of Astana’s Ruslan Tleubayev. Palini moved into the overall lead at the half-way point of the nine-day long Tour.
“Finally I managed to get my first win of the season even though it’s at the end of the season,” Palini said.
“Winning is everyone’s goal. Thanks to the help of my teammates, I’ve made it. On the hill (with 28km to go), a front group formed with a dozen of riders after an acceleration by Astana. Our GC rider Manuele Mori was up there and it looked like Belkin had no one. They probably thought they would bring it back. Because of that, I decided to attack downhill and the wet conditions had made the road slippery. We managed to escape from the bunch and get back onto the breakaway riders. Our group included Bonifazio, Roberto Ferrari and myself. We sprinted at perfection.”
“Astana put the hammer down in the climb”, Bonifazio explained. “We took over for the final sprint. Mori pulled from 3km to 1km to go. Then Ferrari rode until 200m to go. I followed and at the very end, Palini passed me. Considering the time bonus already collected, it was easier that he’d take the yellow jersey.”
Former race leader Julien Antomarchi of La Pomme Marseille was also part of the group of twenty or so riders. So was best Asian rider Wang Meiyin (Hengxiang). A notable absent was defending champion Moreno Hofland of Belkin who actually warned from the very beginning that he wouldn’t be racing for the overall classification. That role would go to teammate Nick Van der Lijke who was up there at the finish.
“Astana’s attack on the climb was very impressive”, Antomarchi noted.
Four Astana riders made that finale very hard but it didn’t include the winner of the 2012 Tour of Hainan Dmitriy Gruzdev.
“This time around, [Aleksandr] Dyachenko and [Andrey] Zeits are our GC riders”, the third placed rider Ruslan Tleubayev said, who was also in the leading group with stage 3 winner Arman Kamyshev.
After the climb, they overtook the lone leader Sergey Grechyn (Ukraine national team) who was left from the initial breakaway of five riders that also included Chinese national champion Zhao Jingbiao (Hengxiang), Ho Burr (Hong Kong), Mario Rojas (RTS-Santic) and Adrian Kurek (CCC Polsat). They had a maximum advantage of four minutes.
“I targeted the polka dot jersey”, said the Ukrainian who was the King of the Mountains at the Presidential Tour of Turkey last year and reached his goal for the day. He added: “I haven’t raced much this year and I don’t know how my legs will feel after such a hard stage in the rain.”
Palini didn’t have that kind of worry.
“The way we rode today shows the good shape and the team spirit we have”, the Italian said.
“I have the yellow jersey half way into the Tour of Hainan but I still think it will be difficult to win the overall classification. On stage 7, the hills remain a question mark for me and it’s going to be difficult to control the race every day so we’ll keep looking at getting the best result each day and hopefully it’ll bring us the maximum of satisfaction at the end.”
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Andrea Palini (Ita) Lampre-Merida||4:32:51|
|2||Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-Merida|
|3||Ruslan Tleubayev (Kaz) Astana|
|4||Arman Kamyshev (Kaz) Astana|
|5||Stepan Astafyev (Kaz)|
|6||Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Belkin|
|7||Jordan Kerby (Aus) Drapac|
|8||Elchin Asadov (Aze) Synergy Baku Cycling Project|
|9||Volodymyr Zagorodny (Ukr) Ukraine|
|10||Samir Jabrayilov (Aze) Synergy Baku Cycling Project|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Andrea Palini (Ita) Lampre-Merida||17:54:55|
|2||Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-Merida||0:00:06|
|3||Julien Antomarchi (Fra) Team La Pomme Marseille 13|
|4||Meiyin Wang (Chn) Hengxiang||0:00:14|
|5||Arman Kamyshev (Kaz) Astana||0:00:16|
|6||Samir Jabrayilov (Aze) Synergy Baku Cycling Project||0:00:19|
|7||Ruslan Tleubayev (Kaz) Astana||0:00:22|
|8||Elchin Asadov (Aze) Synergy Baku Cycling Project||0:00:23|
|9||Serhiy Grechyn (Aze) Ukraine|
|10||Lukasz Owsian (Pol) CCC Polsat Polkowice||0:00:25|