Niu Yikui most aggressive rider on stage four after breakaway efforts in HainanFri 26 Oct 2018
Chinese road champion Niu Yikui produced a strong ride on the fourth stage of the Tour of Hainan today, animating the breakaway with aggressive and determined riding and coming close to holding off the bunch for a stage result.
Mitchelton-BikeExchange started stage four with a plan and on the front foot, with Niu jumping straight into a breakaway quartet in a bid to gain a foothold in the fight for the best Asian rider’s jersey.
Niu’s efforts almost paid off in the first intermediate sprint on the 142kilometre stage, taking second place before doing well to claim maximum points next time around with the peloton some three minutes in arrears and 70kilometres to go.
The leaders did their best to hold off the bunch for as long as possible, but the sprinters teams were determined to have their say and stepped up the intensity of the chase over the closing 30kilometres, although it wouldn’t be easy.
Defiant work from Niu and his companions saw them hold off the bunch going into the final ten kilometres with only two left out front and tensions starting to mount, but attacks off the front of the peloton brought the race back together inside five kilometres to go and subsequently the sprint final.
It was another chaotic ending with a high-speed crash disrupting the field and Andrea Guardini (Bardiani-CSF) the eventual winner with Briton Jacob Hennessy just off the pace of the front runners in 19th.
“Today we planned to send me or Harry Sweenyinto the breakaway and try to get the time bonus. I tried as soon as the race started and immediately got a big gap. It seems the peloton is very tired after yesterday’s long stage and nobody wanted to chase.
“It was me and Zhang Zheng (HEN) competing in the intermediate sprints. In the first sprint we were neck and neck, I once thought I took the first place, but I was actually second.
“At the second sprint I went very well and took the first place. After the second sprint Zhang Zheng went back to the peloton, but I thought we may have a chance to win the stage, so I kept going.
"With about 20kilometres to go there was strong headwind along the coast, and I became the only survivor from the original breakaway, riding together with the Mongolian national champion from team Terengganu (Maral-erdene Batmunkh).
“We worked together pretty well, but only two of us was not enough to compete with the whole peloton, so we were caught around four kilometres from the finish. If there were one or two more riders working together with us we would have had a much better chance.
"However, I’m still happy to win the most aggressive rider award of the stage. It’s the second time I get this award in this race. Last time it was in 2015, and now I feel much stronger than back then.”
Tour of Hainan stage four results:
1. Andrea Guardini (Bardiani-CSF) 03:22:43
2. Davide Ballerini (Androni-Giocattoli-Sidermec) ST
3. Andre Looij (Monkey-Town-Continental-Team) ST
19. Jacob Hennessy (Mitchelton-BikeExchange) ST