Manuel Belletti of Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec became the third different winner in as many bunch sprints as he claimed stage 3 of the 13th Tour of Hainan, scoring the 92nd pro victory for Italian cyclists in the year 2018. Third on the line, Swiss rider Dylan Page retained the yellow jersey for the second day.
"It's been a very demanding race because of the heat and the length," Belletti commented at the finish. "231km at this time of the year after some races in Italy where the temperature was much lower, it hasn't been easy. My team was great. They kept me at the front. Davide Ballerini has been super to take me out of the mix. I launched my sprint 225 meters before the line. The legs weren't super, super, but I managed to resist to the other sprinters. It's great for the morale."
Earlier on, six riders opened the road from km 15 onwards: Wang Bo (Hengxiang), Tyler Williams (Israel Cycling Academy), Jiang Zhihui (Mitchelton-Scott), Kohei Uchima (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Sam Brand (Novo Nordisk) and Amirul Marzuki (Terengganu TSG). Their maximum advantage was seven minutes but the Swiss national team brought it down and stabilized it around five minutes. Jiang was the first escapee to get dropped. Wang was the second one with 40km remaining. Marzuki won one intermediate sprint and came second the two other times, which enabled him to take the lead in the best Asian rider competition.
With 39km to go, Williams soloed at the front while his breakaway companions surrendered one by one. Bardiani CSF, riding for Andrea Guardini, was the most determined of the sprinters' teams. They caught Williams within 10km to go. Many sprinters went for it and it was another very tight victory for Belletti who didn't celebrate until he was officially noticed of having crossed the line first.
"With 600 metres to go, I hit the rider in front of me and I broke a spoke, otherwise I would have won," lamented Kreder who made the top 3 for the second consecutive day. "My legs are good but with this mechanical problem, I missed out on the stage win. I had the perfect timing and the perfect position with 200 metres to go, but because of this problem, I couldn't pass the eventual winner."
Also on the podium again but not a stage winner yet, Page was even more disappointed than the previous day in Changmai. "We could have defended the yellow jersey or not but we decided to assume our responsibilities," the member of the Swiss national team said.
"We keep it. It's a consolation price that shows that we've been consistent since stage 1 but the goal is to win a stage and I know that I'm able to do it. It was very long to control for 231km, it burned two or three of my teammates. They all gave it all and they were still up there in the finale. For them, I would have liked to win. It's really not far. It's annoying but I retain the yellow jersey and there are two or three more opportunities left. I haven't said my last word yet."
Belletti added an interesting technical comment: "We've had three sprint finishes so far and three different winners because the three stages have had very different characteristics," he declared in the post-race press conference.
"Stage 1 was really short and suitable for very explosive riders like Jakub Mareczko. Stage 2 was a slightly uphill finale in which it was extremely difficult to decide where to launch the sprint and we couldn't do it because until the very end we had the uncertainty of Masnada staying away for the victory or not and in fact, other sprinters passed us. Today, it was long and hot, good legs and a great team were needed. It's not a coincidence that we have three different stage winners."
In Qionghai, Belletti scored the 92nd victory for Italian riders since the beginning of the year 2018, making it just one more than France who led the tally of the UCI races from category 1 and above since February. Interestingly, 31 of them have been conquered in Asia plus five more on other continents whereas French riders only took four of their 91 victories outside of Europe (Julian Alaphilippe at Colombia Oro y Paz, Julien Morice at the Tour of Sharjah, Bryan Coquard in Oman and Thomas Lebas at the Tour of Japan).
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Manuel Belletti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec||5:45:48|
|2||Raymond Kreder (Ned) Team Ukyo|
|3||Dylan Page (Swi) Switzerland|
|4||Jakub Mareczko (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia|
|5||Andrea Guardini (Ita) Bardiani CSF|
|6||Marco Benfatto (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|7||Imerio Cima (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini|
|8||Andre Looij (Ned) Monkey Town Continental Team|
|9||Jannik Steimle (Ger) Team Vorarlberg Santic|
|10||Zheng Zhang (Chn) Hengxiang Cycling Team|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Dylan Page (Swi) Switzerland||10:54:03|
|2||Manuel Belletti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec||0:00:02|
|3||Raymond Kreder (Ned) Team Ukyo||0:00:06|
|4||Lucas Carstensen (Ger) Bike Aid|
|5||Tyler Williams (USA) Israel Cycling Academy||0:00:08|
|6||Nur Amirull Fakhruddin Mazuki (Mas) Terengganu Cycling Team||0:00:09|
|7||Zheng Zhang (Chn) Hengxiang Cycling Team||0:00:13|
|8||Fausto Masnada (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|9||Patrick Schelling (Swi) Team Vorarlberg Santic|
|10||Ivar Slik (Ned) Monkey Town Continental Team||0:00:14|