Manuel Belletti makes it two after a hard stage
Stage 3 winner Manuel Belletti of Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec claimed his second stage victory near the beautiful Clearwater Bay in Lingshui. He also took over from Dylan Page in the lead of the overall classification at the end of a very tough day of racing due to the rain and the high rhythm in the successive climbs.
With four different winners in as many bunch sprint finishes, questions arose over who was the best sprinter in this year’s Tour of Hainan. Manuel Belletti gave some answer as he became the first rider to win two stages this year but it’s only part of the answer as sprinters like Jakub Mareczko, Andrea Guardini and Page couldn’t hold the speed of the first part of the peloton uphill and it was a reduced bunch at the end with less than half of the remaining contenders (58 out of 123) being part of the front group at the end.
All riders acknowledged that it was the hardest stage of the Country Garden Cup 13th Tour of Hainan up to date and there are more difficulties to come with the traditional ascent to Wuzhishan on stage 6 and the new uphill finish in Changjiang on stage 8. No breakaway took shape on stage 5 before 100km of racing despite many skirmishes. Alexis Guérin (Delko Marseille-Provence KTM), Clément Carisey (Israel Cycling Academy), Simon Pellaud (Swiss national team) and Davide Orrico (Vorarlberg-Santic) opened a gap of 1’30’’ but the Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec team reacted strongly. The quartet got caught with 40km to go and many more attacks succeeded while the gap to the dropped riders kept increasing significantly.
Orrico jumped again when two of his compatriots escaped and it was no other than defending champion Jacopo Mosca (Wilier Triestina) accompanied by Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF). Gino Mäder (Swiss national team), Guillaume Boivin (Israel Cycling Academy) and Peter Schulting (Monkey Town) reinforced them at the front but Belletti’s team-mates remained devoted until the end.
After winning the Tour of Hungary overall in August, the Italian is again in the lead of a general classification after half way into the Country Garden Cup 13th Tour of Hainan. It might be a different story on stage 6 with a harder finale.
Quotes of the day:
Stage winner and new race leader Manuel Belletti (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec): “I only crowned the work of my team-mates in the last 200 metres. They’ve been impressive once again. By themselves, they caught the four-man breakaway and the last one towards the end. I couldn’t make any mistake after the great confidence they showed me. It’s a nice win that I dedicate to them, the second one in this Tour and it’s not over yet. It’s been a harder stage than what we expected, also because of the rain. We had planned some action in the last climb but it eventually wasn’t needed because the bunch exploded before. We were four of us at the front. We’re very happy with how it went. I came for winning at least one stage and I already have two under my belt. With different sprinters winning bunch sprints, it was hard to tell who was the best because there are so many excellent sprinters here. Today, it was a hard stage and the pure sprinters like [Andrea] Guardini and [Jakub] Mareczko didn’t make the front group. I’ve demonstrated on stage 3 that I was able to win against them, I’ve won today without them and I’ll try to win again in the next few days regardless of who is up there for sprinting. This is my first time in Hainan and it won’t be the last one because the landscapes are really beautiful. The crowd on the road is really welcoming. It’s a really nice atmosphere. I feel good here.”
Jannik Steimle (Vorarlberg-Santic), second: “This is for sure a good result for me. I’ve made the top 10 in the last four days, and today I made my best race of the whole season. We did a really good team work. I think we were the strongest team today. They gave me a good lead out. It was a hard race over 180km, up and down the whole day with a lot of wind. It was not a normal sprint but a sprint with shit legs. The strongest man won. I know Manuel Belletti from the Tour of Hungary. I found his back wheel with 3km to go. I stayed there until the finishing line and that’s how I came second.”
Green jersey holder Raymond Kreder (Ukyo), third: “It means a lot to me to take the green jersey. I went for the points in the first intermediate sprint and I won it. At the finish, I came third, which means more points. For sure I want to defend the green jersey from now on.”
Best Asian rider Amirul Marzuki (Terengganu TSG): “I didn’t expect to take the blue jersey today because it was the first stage with climbs, which was very hard for me. But I tried to follow the first group and I got the jersey. My team will help me defend the jersey tomorrow but stage 8 will be very hard for me. I’ll try my best.”
King of the Mountains Lyu Xianjing (Hengxiang): “This Tour of Hainan my first ever international road race. I’m normally a mountain biker. I’m grateful to the Hengxiang team to have given me this opportunity. I’m very satisfied with my performance in the climbs today. I didn’t expect to become the King of the Mountains in a prestigious race like the Tour of Hainan. It’s a surprise for me. I’m normally lacking skills in handling a road bike but I’m doing my best.”
Most active rider Davide Orrico (Vorarlberg-Santic): “It was the team’s goal to be part of all possible breakaways and then go for the sprint with Jannik. So we kept the race active as much as we could. We knew we were a strong and united team. We were even five of us at the front. When we made that 4-man breakaway, my little objective was to win the second category KOM and I managed to conquer it. We rode very fast on the flat but we got caught by Androni and I tried again in the finale. It went well at the end because Jannik [Steimle] conquered a beautiful podium place.”