In another sprint against the wind, a different stage winner emerged with Australia’s Brenton Jones of Drapac taking the final win in Wanning Xinglong but the overall victory remained in the camp of Lampre-Merida as Sacha Modolo retained the yellow jersey to claim his first ever stage race triumph.
“I was a bit tired today after the efforts I produced in the hills yesterday,” Modolo admitted after the finish. “But my team has been fantastic. They helped me keep this yellow jersey. I was worried, the course could have gone out of our hands in the early intermediate sprints, then I faced attacks in the hills but I responded by myself, so I managed to reach the primary goal. It feels strange to cross a line in seventh place and be the winner. It’s new to me. I’ve never won a stage race before. I had to dig too deep yesterday and I couldn’t win one more sprint but I still won my fight against Andrea Palini for the green jersey.”
The early part of the conclusive stage was so quick that no breakaway took place and the stage average speed exceeded 46kph. Francesco Gavazzi of Southeast was second at the second intermediate sprint, which made him move from eighth overall to fourth at the position previously occupied by Francisco Mancebo from Skydive Dubai who was involved in a crash that split the peloton 3.6 kilometres before the end.
Interestingly, the sprinters faced a headwind once again in the final stretch. “I launched my sprint with 300 metres to go, that was too much but it’s part of the game,” said stage 5 winner Benjamin Giraud of Marseille 13-KTM who finished third in the first bunch gallop.
Jones passed him on the right side to put his name on the record book of a HC race for the first time in his career after winning the prologue of the 2.1 Tour of Japan in May this year. “The sprint was very messy because so many riders wanted to win today,” the Australian declared. “I found the right gap with 200 metres to go. It was nice to come up with a win after crashing in stage 1 on the same finish. I think every bunch sprint this week has been with a head wind so I must have come from behind today. I got a nice and clean run to the finish. I’ve had a great support from the boys all week. It’s nice to win this last stage.”
Chinese media were amazed to hear the story of the 23 year old whose life had been endangered in an accident. “Four years ago I had a nasty crash in racing the Australian national road series,” Jones explained. “I was placed in induced coma at a hospital for a week. I was off the bike for three months. It was a serious brain injury. I was just lucky to survive. To come back from that and to get my biggest victory today, with the support of the team, I can’t thank all those who helped me along the way.”
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