The 2016 season did not start out well for Max Walscheid, but the 23-year-old from Giant-Alpecin is closing out his year with a string of victories in the Tour of Hainan. Walscheid claimed his third win in a row today on a hilly 184.9km stage to Changjiang, topping Rafael Andriato (Wilier-Southeast) and Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) in the bunch sprint..
"It was a great day of racing, everything went according to plan and I am delighted with my third victory in succession," Walscheid said. "The finale was a bit chaotic, but the team did a great job. We managed to stay together and the guys did another good lead-out for me. From 250 meters I started the sprint and it was harder than expected with the wind. It was a tight finish, but I am glad I got to the finish line first."
Walscheid was one of the six riders from Giant-Alpecin who were injured when a wrong-way driver hit the team head on during its training camp in January. He suffered a fractured tibia and wrist and did not begin his season until May.
After finishing second in the opening Tour of Hainan and fourth on the second stage, Walscheid found his speed and claimed his first professional victory in Chengmai on Monday. Now he has three in a row to his name and the overall race lead to boot. He hopes to keep it in tomorrow's 197.2km stage to Wuzhishan, which features a category 1 climb cresting just 12km before the finish.
"Concerning tomorrow's stage, it is going to be a hard with some climbs to overcome. However, I have got a fantastic team around me and we will see tomorrow."
Whether or not he can bring home the overall victory, his director Arthur van Dongen has been pleased with the results in Hainan.
"We are very happy with this result. It was a good race today and the team performed well," Van Dongen said. "The scenario was ideal for us with the breakaway that was in front and we were able to control the race and keep to our plan of setting up a sprint for Max. It was another tricky finale with a fast finish. The guys managed to stay calm and Max was able to come to the front in the final straight to take the victory."
"It was a great display of teamwork and to take three wins in a row is not something you do quite often. These victories will give him plenty of confidence."