Stage 5 winner Boris Shpilevskiy (RTS-Santic) claimed a second success in the Tour of Taihu Lake as he sprinted to victory on the final day in Wujiang, where Australia’s Sam Witmitz, third on the line, won the first UCI 2.1 race of his career at the age of 29. He won the race ahead of Alois Kankovsky who finished second overall for the third time (after 2011 and 2013). Dutch revelation Jurgen van Diemen had a few mechanicals and slipped to third but remained on the podium.
“I’ve used the slipstream of Dukla Praha,” said Shpilevskiy who didn’t have a lead out train with team-mates coming mostly from Colombia. “The other sprinters’ teams Budget Forklifts and Blue Water had used a lot of energy earlier on while Dukla and I still had some left for the final sprint. It was the right decision to follow them. They did a really good lead out. But I went out with 250 metres to go and it was a little bit too long.”
Witmitz had mathematically won the overall classification after he finished second in the second intermediate sprint. “There were mini races going on within the race with guys who were fortieth and if they’d win an intermediate sprint, they’d jump up to twentieth”, the Australian said.
Søren Andersen, a 20 year old Dane from Trefor-Blue Water, claimed that best young riders competition as he won the first intermediate sprint and therefore dethroned Turkish raising star Ahmet Örken.
“After the first intermediate sprint, where most of my rivals got time and I got nothing, I was stressed but my guys didn’t panic”, Witmitz continued. “We were fully committed to a lead out train and we managed to get some more time which made it mathematically impossible for anyone to beat me in the Tour so after that second sprint, I was a bit more relaxed. In the finish, it didn’t matter. Everything was a bonus. I was definitely not in a honey hole today. It was crazy in the final last kilometer or so.”
“It’s been very stressful up until two laps to go”, he added. “It’s amazing that we managed to pull it off. I never thought I’d be a 2.1 winner, ever! I’d be lucky to win a chook raffle back home, so, to come to China and win GC… It’s quite a young Tour, like five years running. It’s great to be part of its history already. It’s so fast this Tour! I’ve never experienced racing this fast in my life, other than maybe on a velodrome. It felt like motor pacing. What helped me a lot and Jesse [Kerrison] is the same, is that we had a 55 chain ring at the front. In the first stage, when I dropped Jesse off at 200 metres to go, we were doing 74km/h. We don’t get this sort of speed in Australia.”
“Bike racing is so hostile”, the outspoken Victorian concluded. “It takes one tiny little mistake and you can lose it all, so there was definitely a little bit of luck involved. We finish with quite a good gap but every single day of this Tour was hard. To come away with the overall victory, it blows my mind. I never thought I’d be capable of this as a cyclist. My first philosophy when I started to race overseas was pretty much for life experience, travelling the world and doing the sport you love but to add the final victory in the Tour of Taihu lake is just wonderful. This was my first time to China but I’d love to come back to this race.”
The fifth Tour of Taihu Lake has confirmed that Chinese cycling has a jewel in store with Wang Meiyin and another one in the making with Ma Guangtong. “After reaching my goal with finishing in the top 10 at the Tour of Hainan [8th], I’m pretty satisfied to make the top 5 at the Tour of Taihu lake”, said the aggressive rider from Shandong who was awarded in the Greater China competition.