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Tim Wellens bags his first win in China
date:2017-10-22 source: hits:

Tim Wellens bags his first win in China

Belgium’s Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) surged to win stage 4 of the inaugural Gree UCI WorldTour Tour of Guangxi as he rode away from Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing Team) in the last 400 metres uphill to Nongla to move into the lead with two stages to go.

Stage 4 was set to be a crucial one for the overall win with the uncertainty over whether or not triple stage winner and race leader Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) would be able to keep some hopes of winning the Gree UCI WorldTour Tour of Guangxi. The Colombian ace had bad legs from the start and put himself out of contention, leaving the leadership of the Quick Step team fully on the shoulders of Julian Alaphilippe.

After an early attempt involving local star Wang Meiyin of Bahrain-Merida, four riders made a strong move at km 10: Pavel Kotchekov (Katusha-Alpecin), Victor Campenaerts (LottoNL-Jumbo), Lennard Hofstede (Sunweb) and Antonio Molina (Caja Rural-RGA). They got their maximum lead at half way into the 151km long race: 7.20. Astana, BMC and Quick-Step Floors set the tempo at the head of the peloton. With 10km to go, the time gap was reduced to 30 seconds as the ambitious teams were jostling for positions to put their respective leaders in the best possible place at the bottom of the final climb with 3km to go.

Campenaert forged on by himself and got the price of most active rider of the day but it was all together with 6km remaining. Roche attacked with 2km to go and took the mountain price that awarded him the green jersey at the flamme rouge. Wellens and Mollema went across to the Irishman. The three men swapped turns until Wellens launched a strong and decisive acceleration 400 metres before the line to take the stage victory and the lead in the overall classification with an advantage of four seconds over Mollema.

Post race quotes

Stage winner and new race leader Tim Wellens: “We came here as a team firstly to win a stage and secondly to do as well as we could on GC, so the first goal is reached and I’m in the lead. I prefer to be ahead in the overall ranking now than behind. When Nicolas Roche attacked with 2km to go, I thought it was too soon but nobody reacted, so I did in a steep part of the climb. Towards the finish it was a bit harder again. We swapped turns with Roche and [Bauke] Mollema and at the end I went solo. To be here in China is a real experience. I must say that the organization is super good. The riders are very happy with the accommodations and the nice roads. It’s a beautiful race. China is important for cycling and to put Lotto-Soudal on a world map. In the first three days, we tried to go for the sprints with Moreno [Hofland] but we had problems with positioning. Today it was my turn and it went really good. I had a lot of power in my legs. I’m always very good at the beginning and at the end of the season. So I was very motivated for coming to the Gree UCI WorldTour Tour of Guangxi. Before today’s stage, I said it would be the decisive stage for the overall classification. I hope that I was right. It’ll be another hard stage tomorrow but on a flat finish, it’s not easy to make up time. We have a good team to defend the jersey.”

Sprints classification leader Fernando Gaviria: “In cycling, one day you feel good, one day you feel bad. I had very bad feelings today. It was a difficult stage. With the bad legs I had in the finale, I couldn’t do much. We were hoping to win again today with Julian Alaphilippe but we’re not disappointed because we already have three stage wins. It’s a good result for us in China. If I have better legs tomorrow, I’ll try to go for one more victory.”

King of the Mountain Nicolas Roche: “I attacked in the last steep ramp before it flattened out. I knew that if I was gonna be with others in the last 500 metres where it was harder again, some riders are more of a sprinter type than me. So I gave it a go from far. If I wanted to have a proper go for GC, I had to go from the steeper bit with two kilometers to go. It was the right move but Wellens was stronger. He caught us with 800m to go just before the drag to the left corner. Mollema took a turn straight away and I took a turn with Mollema. Wellens accelerated at about 400 to go. He just rode us off until the finishing straight. He was definitely the strongest. It was an exciting finish. It was a hard and a flat out effort, which isn’t easy to do at this time of the year. It would have been great for me to win. I thought about it with 2km to go. But I’m happy enough with 3rd. It’s important to fight for GC.”

Sporting stakes stage 5

The longest stage of the Gree UCI WorldTour Tour of Guangxi will take the peloton from Liuzhou, the native town of China’s sports legend Li Ning, to Guilin, the former capital city of Guangxi. It’s said by some to be the queen stage of the race as it is the longest one with a total of 212km, also featuring some interesting hills. Four categorized climbs are on the menu. The fourth one, Jinzhu Hill, being classified as cat. 1 with 34km to go to Guilin with a fast descent and flat run into finish. The characteristics of the finale hint that it shouldn’t be a major problem for Tim Wellens and the strong and well experienced team to defend the red jersey. However, the likes of Bauke Mollema, Nicolas Roche and Julian Alaphilippe who missed out on the victory they looked for in Nongla certainly haven’t said their last words.

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