Tour of Hainan, stage 1 Wanning-Xinglong circuit race (76.1km)
Palini returns on winning mode to his favorite island
By 7Cycling Jeff Quenet
Italy’s Andrea Palini of Skydive Dubai claimed stage 1 of the tenth Tour of Hainan ahead of his compatriot Roberto Ferrari from Lampre-Merida while another hot favorite Jakub Mareczko went down just inside 3km to go and broke his fork.
“It’s a great feeling to be a winner again here in Hainan”, Palini said. “Our team stopped for four months [from June to September] and we resumed racing at the Abu Dhabi Tour. Straight away I got some interesting placing in the sprints [4th, 6th and 7th] so I knew my condition wasn’t bad before coming to China. From the beginning of the stage, it was decided that the team would ride for me. The strong teams showed very quickly their intentions to get a bunch sprint finish.”
The three-man breakaway formed of Brad Evans (Drapac), Chris Williams (Novo Nordisk) and Hossein Alizadeh (RTS-Santic) impacted the best Asian competition as the latter moved into the lead through time bonuses. The Iranian didn’t forge on after the intermediate sprint at km 40 while Evans and Williams got reined in with 25km to go. Egert Zhupa (Southeast) and Scott Ambrose (Novo Nordisk) also tried their luck but it was all together for the last 12km.
“It was a pretty easy race on wide and straight roads”, Palini noted. “I didn’t see the crash [involving Mareczko and a rider from Drapac]. I took advantage of some lead out work by Kazakh riders [from Vino4ever] and I was pretty lucky at the end.”
Lampre-Merida was the team to watch with top sprinters like Sacha Modolo and Roberto Ferrari who eventually placed second. “The sprint looked great for Sacha but unfortunately he got boxed in”, Ferrari explained. “So I’ve had to go by myself on the left side but Palini finished strongly and he passed me. It’s the end of the season but we at Lampre-Merida are still in good condition. We’re here for winning some stages and we’ll try at each of them.”
New to the Tour of Hainan, Trek Factory Racing came with an incomplete team and three trainees but they enjoyed a podium finish with Fabio Silvestre, third. “It’s been a hard sprint with many riders trying to be up there”, the Portuguese said. “But I got a good position. It was important for our team to start the race well.”
With eight more stages to go, Palini became hungry for more. Riding for Lampre-Merida last year, his win in stage 5 of the Tour of Hainan, also starting from Xinglong but finishing in Sanya, got him a chance to pursue his career with the ambitious Skydive Dubai now directed by Alberto Volpi formerly at the helm of Fassa Bortolo, Barloworld and Liquigas-Cannondale.