Up-and-coming Swiss climber Gino Mäder made history for himself as he claimed his first pro victory with a smart attack one kilometre before the end of stage 6 of the 13th Tour of Hainan in Wuzhishan.
Fifth on the line, green jersey holder Raymond Kreder of Ukyo moved into the yellow jersey but the day's winner became the hot favourite for the overall victory on Wednesday in Danzhou.
"I was told by my teammates that today's stage was pretty similar to one of the two I won at the Tour de l'Avenir, so my idea was to go for the stage win," Mäder declared.
"I felt good yesterday but I made a few mistakes in the finale but today was a really good day to attack for the GC and the stage win. After the descent following the last KOM, our group was pretty big with a few good sprinters, including the green jersey [Raymond Kreder]. When I saw an uphill a bit more than one kilometre before the finishing line, I decided that it was worth a go and I went all in."
It came down to a front group of 13 riders after the last King of the Mountains prize, 12km before the end in Wuzhishan, which is an iconic finish of the Tour of Hainan in the volcanic mountains of China's paradisiacal island. In that hill, Gatis Smukulis (Delko Marseille-Provence KTM) was the last breakaway rider caught by the peloton led by Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec. Even though race leader Manuel Belletti was eventually off the back, the Italian team were racing for Fausto Masnada on GC.
Smukulis was one of eight attackers in the opening kilometres of the stage. They remained three at the front with Itamar Einhorn (Israel Cycling Academy) and Stefan Bissegger (Swiss national team), and the Latvian rider went solo with 40km to go. Once he got caught, Roland Thalmann (Vorarlberg-Santic) tried his luck by himself. He crested the summit in first place and polka dot jersey Lyu Xianjing of Hengxiang rode impressively to take second place and defend his lead, knowing that this Tour of Hainan is the first ever international road race for the 20-year-old mountain biker.
"I'm very satisfied with my result today", said Lyu, who also became the best Asian rider. "I'm thankful to my team-mates for helping me to achieve this. I was targeting KOM points but I'm very surprised that I'm also in the blue jersey. The polka dot jersey remains my goal for this Tour of Hainan. I have no experience of road racing so I don't even know the riders I'm racing against here. I'm yet to learn a lot about road cycling but I also want to participate to the Olympic Games and most likely that will be in mountain biking."
It was a day for young riders to shine in Wuzhishan. "I came to Asia before to race on the track but this is my first experience here on the road", Mäder said.
"I enjoy it because people are so joyful. They're happy to see the race. The organisation is really great and the weather is way better than at home. The Tour of Hainan is a great preparation for next year with Dimension Data in the WorldTour. It's been great to have the yellow jersey in the team for three days with Dylan Page who was really smart in the first few days of the race. He enjoyed his time in yellow.
"But today my teammates told me to wait for stage 8 to take the yellow jersey, so we don't have to work again at the front of the peloton. I hope I'll take the yellow jersey at the end of stage 8."
Usually, Wuzhishan is the queen stage of the Tour of Hainan but an unprecedented uphill finish in Changjiang on stage 8 makes it a different race this year.
"I didn't really expect to lead the Tour of Hainan after a mountainous stage but I felt good in the last couple of days", said Kreder after he became the new race leader. "I was always close to a stage victory. I knew I had a possibility to be in yellow today. I did everything I could. It'll be a good experience tomorrow. I'm looking forward to start stage 7 with the yellow jersey. I would like stage 8 to be cancelled. I know it'll be too hard for me. I'm not a climber."
Mäder, Masnada and last year's runner-up Benjamin Prades, who is Kreder's team-mate at Ukyo, now fill the shoes of the favourites for the overall.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Gino Mäder (Sui) Switzerland||5:02:27|
|2||Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Cycling Academy|
|3||Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Bardiani CSF|
|4||Julien El Fares (Fra) Delko Marseille Provence KTM|
|5||Raymond Kreder (Ned) Team Ukyo|
|6||Davide Orrico (Ita) Team Vorarlberg Santic|
|7||Simone Velasco (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia|
|8||Fausto Masnada (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|9||Rodrigo Araque Lorente (Spa) Team Ukyo|
|10||Patrick Schelling (Swi) Team Vorarlberg Santic|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Raymond Kreder (Ned) Team Ukyo||23:28:19|
|2||Gino Mäder (Sui) Switzerland||0:00:07|
|3||Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Cycling Academy||0:00:11|
|4||Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Bardiani CSF||0:00:13|
|5||Fausto Masnada (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec||0:00:14|
|6||Patrick Schelling (Swi) Team Vorarlberg Santic|
|7||Julien El Fares (Fra) Delko Marseille Provence KTM||0:00:15|
|8||Simone Velasco (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia||0:00:17|
|9||Benjami Prades Reverter (Spa) Team Ukyo|
|10||Davide Orrico (Ita) Team Vorarlberg Santic|