Italy's Massimo Graziato of Parkhotel-Valkenburg wrapped up the overall title in the first edition of the Tour of Shanghai on Saturday as Emils Liepins (Rietumu-Delfin) won the second and final stage ahead of Malaysia's Anuar Manan (Terengganu) and Ahmet Örken of the Turkish national team.
Two sprints enabled Graziato to overtake stage 1 winner Yehor Dementyev in front of the Yuz Museum on West Bund Shanghai in competitive cycling’s return to China's economic capital ten years after a short-lived attempt to create an Asian version version of the Tour de France running from Shanghai to Hong Kong.
"Winning GC, points classification and teams classification, we couldn't ask for more," Graziato told Cyclingnews after crossing the stage 2 finish line in fourth position. "The rain and the cold have made the race difficult but with the help of the team we've managed to reach our goal. Marco Zanotti led me out in the third intermediate sprint where I took the three seconds I needed and he protected me ahead of the final sprint. It's nice to conclude the season with a victory and this might as well be my last race ever. I'd like to continue but I have no contract for next year."
Graziato, 28, who rode for Lampre in 2012 and 2013, couldn't contest the first two intermediate sprints as there was a 7-man breakaway up the road. Armands Becis nabbed both, joined in the move by his Rietumu-Delfin teammate Peter Pruus, Cheung King Lok (Hong Kong), Edward Walsh and Sean Mackinnon (Canada), Ben Hill (Attaque Gusto) and Örken. They were reined in just before the third sprint as Parkhotel-Valkenburg rode smartly in pursuit, waiting for the right time to make the catch.
Korea's Min Kyeongho (Seoul Cycling) came second in that sprint to secure his lead in the best Asian rider competition before he crashed with 1km to go, taking down Cheung among others. Liepins surged to claim his sixth stage victory of the year at the national level, while he's still chasing his first UCI victory.
"This is the last race of the season, it's great to finish that way," Liepins said. "I sat in the group for the whole race to save my power for the finish. That gives me hope for better results next year."
"I was actually working for my teammate Amirul [Marzuki] who finished third yesterday and had a place on GC to defend," explained runner-up Manan who is the only Malaysian to have won a stage at the Tour de Langkawi. "I tried to lead him out but he got stuck by an incident with one kilometre to go. So I tried to survive alone. I'm not completely satisfied with this second place. I still want to win when I'm racing. I made a mistake. I jumped too early."
"It was very hard today," echoed Örken. "It was so cold that I rode away. We worked a lot but it didn't work out. Then I waited for the final sprint with the help of my team-mates. I'm very happy with the third place. This race is part of my preparation for next year's Tour of Turkey [a newly promoted WorldTour event from April 18 to 23]. We've started our training two weeks ago."
The second Tour of Shanghai is expected to become a UCI 2.2 race in 2017.
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