Stage 4: Qionghai - Wanning
Andrea Guardini claimed his 33rd victory on the Asian continent out of 42 since he successfully started his professional career at the 2011 Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia as he fended off the field of the sprinters at the end of stage 4 in the 13th Tour of Hainan in Wanning. Dylan Page of the Swiss national team retained the yellow jersey for the third straight day.
"I'm really happy because I couldn’t mess it up a second time for my teammates who did a great job yesterday," Guardini said. "It was my mistake yesterday. I didn’t sleep well last night, thinking of what went wrong. It’s a revenge today. We were well organised in the last ten kilometres today. Preparation for the sprints is very challenging here in Hainan. Four stages winners in four bunch sprints, it says a lot about the level there is at this race this year with so many sprinters in contention. There are even teams who can choose between different riders who is their sprinter of the day."
It was a pretty standard flat stage with four riders taking off after the flag off: Gu Bingcheng (Giant), Stephen Clancy (Novo Nordisk), Niu Yikui (Mitchelton-Scott) and Zhang Zheng (Hengxiang) who was hunting back for the blue jersey of best Asian rider, after losing it to Malaysia’s Amirul Marzuki the day before. After 5km of racing, they were already three minutes up the road but the bunch kept them on a leash and it was 2:50 after 40km. Zhang won the first intermediate sprint at 33.8km and was second to Niu in the second one at 60.2km, after which he stood up and waited for the peloton.
With 50km to go, Gatis Smukulis (Delko Marseille-Provence KTM) and Artem Ovechkin (Terengganu TSG) rode away from the bunch but another Terengganu TSG rider had more luck later on as Mongolian champion Maral-Erdene Batmunkh bridged the gap to Gu, Clancy and Niu 38km before the end. Batmunkh and Niu were the last to surrender to the rush of the sprinters with 7km to go.
"I’ve realized today that it’s not easy to fight for yellow jersey and stage win at the same time," Page said. "We were forced to work all day and we split the work with the Androni guys because they won yesterday. I took a lot of wind in the finale today. I spent too much energy before the sprint. I got a little bit boxed in and I didn’t time it perfectly. It was stage 4… We can’t make the podium every day but our goal remains to win a stage before the end of the race."
Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec were on the podium for the second straight day but with a different rider than stage 3 winner Manuel Belletti. Runner up Davide Ballerini explained how it happened: "I’m displeased because I had to lead Manuel [Belletti] out, like in the previous races, but as the sprint was launched, I infiltrated myself in a hole. Hadn’t I done it, I wouldn’t have been even second, but I lost Manuel there, at about 450 metres to go where the crash happened [involving Australian’s Brenton Jones of Delko Marseille-Provence KTM]. Unfortunately, the win hasn’t arrived today but obviously, it wasn’t easy against [Andrea] Guardini."
This is Guardini's first participation to the Tour of Hainan and his fourth Chinese victory after the three wins he got at the 2012 Tour of Qinghai Lake following his only Giro d’Italia triumph that year with Farnese Vini-Selle Italia before transferring to Astana. He has become a true specialist of stage races in Asia and the Middle East.
"I’ve always said that I like to race under the heat so I can’t complain here, I prefer those conditions than rain and cold," he said on China’s tropical island.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Andrea Guardini (Ita) Bardiani CSF||3:22:00|
|2||Davide Ballerini (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|3||Andre Looij (Ned) Monkey Town|
|4||Lucas Carstensen (Ger) Bike Aid|
|5||Raymond Kreder (Ned) Team Ukyo|
|6||Jannik Steimle (Bel) Team Vorarlberg Santic|
|7||Anthony Giacoppo (Aus) Bennelong SwissWellness|
|8||Manuel Belletti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|9||Dylan Page (Swi) Switzerland|
|10||Imerio Cima (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Dylan Page (Swi) Switzerland||14:16:46|
|2||Manuel Belletti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec||0:00:02|
|3||Raymond Kreder (Ned) Team Ukyo||0:00:06|
|4||Andrea Guardini (Ita) Bardiani CSF|
|5||Lucas Carstensen (Ger) Bike Aid|
|6||Zheng Zhang (Chn) Hengxiang Cycling Team||0:00:08|
|7||Tyler Williams (USA) Israel Cycling Academy|
|8||Nur Amirull Fakhruddin Mazuki (Mas) Terengganu Cycling Team||0:00:10|
|9||Davide Ballerini (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|10||Yiku Niu (Chn) Mitchelton-BikeExchange|
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