Tough day out for Mitchelton-BikeExchange on stage four in FuzhouSat 17 Nov 2018
After working hard to help make the pace on the approach to the final on today’s fourth stage of the Tour of Fuzhou, Chinese Continental team Mitchelton-BikeExchange fell away over the ascending closing kilometres with Liu Jiankun fighting hard, but unable to stay with the pace in the favourites group.
In contrast to the previous days stage four began in relative calm, five riders slipped clear of the peloton over the early kilometres and without much fuss, started to develop and advantage over the rolling terrain.
Just past the halfway point, with 60kilometres left to race the gap stood at two minutes 45seconds and with the road continuing to dip and rise towards the 11kilometre climb up to the finish in Da Yang the GC teams remained close together at the head of the peloton.
As the final climb drew nearer with 25kilometres to go and the gap to the leaders still over two minutes. Mitchelton-BikeExchange sent Kaden Groves and Chinese road champion Niu Yikui to the front to position Liu Jiankun ahead of the climb.
A few kilometres later and big turns by Groves, Yikui and Sam Jenner ended up slashing the lead of the quintet and brought them within a minute, setting up the next wave of accelerations.
Former race leader Lyu Xianjing (Hengxiang) sensed an opportunity and attacked on the wheel of a teammate, further ramping up the pace, passing the breakaway and causing the first splits as the GC contenders all jumped to stay in contact.
With the selection now formed it became all about who could hold on and the group continued to reduce up the climb as Beijing-XDS set a furious tempo. Liu Jiankun battled, but lost contact with 13kilometres still to race as Beijing-XDS continued to control proceedings.
The Chinese team played it successfully with Mykhaylo Kononenko let of the leash with two kilometres to go to take a solo stage win and teammate Ilya Davidenok retaining the race lead going into tomorrow’s final stage.
Sport director James Victor:
“It was a solid stage throughout today and race leaders XDS kept the pace high from the start, looking to keep the breakaway at a manageable distance and trying to exert some control.”
“We rode well and hit the front ahead of the final climb more to position Liu and Nazaerbieke Bieken than to bring the leaders back. It was important that we gave our cli9mbers the best opportunity possible by hitting the climb in a good position and we managed that.
“Liu just didn’t have the legs today, he wasn’t far behind, but the favourites group set a real high pace on the climb and he slipped back into the second group. It is another good learning experience for our Chinese riders of how tough, important GC days can unfold and we will benefit from that.
“Tomorrow is our final opportunity to get a stage win here, we came close in the sprint stage two and Kaden is up for another go tomorrow. He knows the circuit from last year and we will do our best to get him in a position to go for the win.”
Tour of Fuzhou stage four results:
1. Mykhaylo Kononenko (Beijing-XDS-Innova) 03:06:01
2. Maarten de Jonge (Monkey-Town-Continental-Team) +0:04
3. Vasili Strokau (Minsk-Cycling-Club) +0:08
34. Liu Jiankun (Mitchelton-BikeExchange) +1:36
General classification stage stage four:
1. Ilya Davidenok (Beijing-XDS-Innova) 10:30:01
2. Ben Dyball (St.George-Continental-Team) +0:12
3. Lyu Xianjing (Hengxiang-Cycling-Team) +0:21
16. Liu Jiankun (Mitchelton-BikeExchange) +3:08
Photos courtesy of the Tour of Fuzhou.