National champion Niu Yikui leads from the breakaway on stage one of the Tour of China

Sat 8 Sep 2018

A great start to the ninth edition of the Tour of China for Mitchelton-BikeExchange on the opening stage, saw Chinese road champion Niu Yikui animate the breakaway to claim two intermediate sprints and end the day in the best Asian rider’s jersey.

The seven-stage race started with fast and flat circuits over 82kilometres in Jintang County. Australian Harry Sweeny was the first Mitchelton-BikeExchange rider to taste the action, jumping into the early breakaway move on the opening laps.

Despite Sweeny’s efforts the attack didn’t last and second time around it was Niu Yikui who made the cut. Given more rope, Niu’s group of three managed to stay away for more time and it was the Chinese champion who animated.

Sprinting clear on successive occasions, Niu took the maximum points on offer to move into the lead of the best Asian rider’s classification and a solid position on GC, but that wouldn’t be certain until the stage finale played out and it was the sprinters teams who had their say.

Bringing the race back together for the inevitable bunch sprint the bunch swept up the leading trio with Italian Matteo Malucelli (Androni-Giocattoli-Sidermec) taking the stage win and race lead with Niu Yikui in fourth overall going into the second day of racing.

Niu Yikui – chinese road champion:

“Today’s opening stage was a very short stage of only 82kilometres. Our plan before the stage was to let me go into the breakaway and to protect Jacob in the final sprint and we managed to achieve that.”

“The early part of the race was really fast, and no breakaway could go clear before the first intermediate sprint at nine kilometres in. Then after the only KOM at 27kilometres I found a chance and went out.

“I sprinted to the first place at the second and third intermediate sprints and got a six second time bonus which could put me at the top of the Greater China’s ranking.

“Unfortunately, after I went back to the peloton I got a bit boxed in under the flamme rouge, so I couldn’t do a better job of leading Jacob Hennessy to the finish line. Tomorrow it will be a much harder stage than today, and I hope I can keep the jersey and I’ll try to do more for my teammates.”

Tour of China stage one results:

1. Matteo Malucelli (Androni-Giocattoli-Sidermec) 01:46:48

2. Jakub Mareczko (Willier-Triestina-Selle-Italia) ST

3. Marco Benfatto (Androni-Giocattoli-Sidermec) ST

19. Jacob Hennessy (Mitchelton-BikeExchange) ST

General classification after stage one:

1. Matteo Malucelli (Androni-Giocattoli-Sidermec) 01:46:38

2. Jakub Mareczko (Willier-Triestina-Selle-Italia) +0:04

3. Marco Benfatto (Androni-Giocattoli-Sidermec) ST

4. Niu Yikui (Mitchelton-BikeExchange) ST