The long-awaited queen stage of the 10th Tour of Hainan lived up to expectations with race favourite Andrey Zeits of Astana going clear to claim the first victory of his eight-year professional career, while Lampre-Merida’s Sacha Modolo paced himself to emerge from the hills leading to Wuzhishan with his race lead intact.
“I’m happy to finally win a race. It’s been a great team work by Astana,” Zeits declared at the post-race press conference. “I was pedaling on an easy mode all day while my team-mates were pulling the bunch. They prepared for my attack very well. I also tried to reach the finish line with a big enough gap to take the yellow jersey. It didn’t happen but I’m equally happy with the blue jersey [best Asian rider].
“I want to thank the organisers for putting together this nice race at the end of the season,” Zeits declared at the post-race press conference. “It’s my fourth time doing the Tour of Hainan and I like it, especially when the stages are long like sometimes this year.”
As lone escapee Oleksandr Polivoda from the Ukraine national team surrendered, Zeits rode away with 16km to go as he countered an acceleration by his young teammate Bakhtiar Kozhatayev. Another promising rider, Valerio Conti, followed the instructions from his Lampre-Merida team to stick to Zeits’ wheel on the decisive hill. But the young Italian got dropped on the descent.
He also caused a split that prevented chaser Julien El Farès of Marseille 13-KTM from coming across to the Kazakh leader. “I’m disappointed,” the Frenchman said. “On the flat I should have waited for [Francisco] Mancebo. Had we combined forces, we were faster than Zeits in the sprint.”
With the exception of Conti, the Lampre-Merida riders were supposed to look after Modolo, who had made clear on the eve of the queen stage that he hadn’t said his last word for keeping the yellow jersey.
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