Tour of Hainan, stage 5
Giraud keeps Marseille’s reputation high in Asia
By 7Cycling Jeff Quenet
Benjamin Giraud of Marseille 13-KTM outsprinted race leader Sacha Modolo at the end of a very demanding finale in stage 5 of the tenth Tour of Hainan. The Frenchman is highly regarded in Asia as he already won stages at the Tour of Qinghai Lake, the Tour de Taiwan and the Tour of China. As defending champions after Julien Antomarchi’s overall victory last year, the squad from the Mediterranean city aims for more.
“This is a great win”, Giraud reacted in Qiongzhong, a cycling friendly city in the centre of the island where an international cyclo-cross was organized for the first time at the end of August this year. “Beating a rider like Modolo with the palmarès he’s got is beautiful. Finishing third yesterday, I felt I had the victory in the legs. I got confirmation of my good feelings when I won the first intermediate sprint today. The finale was exactly what I like the most with a false flat section to sprint for the win.”
It wasn’t a standard stage for sprinters. Firstly, it came after a very long one (237km) won by Modolo who noted: “Many riders had that distance in their legs.” Secondly, although the fight for the King of the Mountain price hasn’t started yet, the last 15km of racing to Qiongzhong were lumpy. It put an end to the hopes of the breakaway riders Taras Voropayev (Vino4ever), Vitaly Buts (Ukraine) and Ma Guangtong (Hengxiang) who took the lead of the best Asian rider competition back from his team-mate Wang Meiyin.
Eventually, it inspired several riders who attacked with the true hope of winning. Adrian Honkisz (CCC), Alexander Shushemoin (Vino4ever) and Alessandro Malaguti (Nippo-Vini Fantini) got caught with 15km to go but Malaguti went again with Daniil Fominykh (Astana). As soon they were brought back, another Astana rider rode away with Julien El Farès (Marseille 13-KTM). By the time the race went down to a bunch gallop, many contenders were exhausted.
“There was a crash with 800 metres to go”, Modolo explained. “It forced me to restart from scratch. Once I managed to get back onto Andrea Palini’s wheel, I had already done one sprint. Giraud did well passing me just before the line. Yesterday, I already noted he was fast. Today, he had something more than the rest of us.”
“I have waited for launching my sprint but not enough”, Palini echoed. “I was scared that Modolo would start from behind. Great legs were needed for winning today. We’ve done everything we could.”
Modolo kept the lead in the overall ranking but after stage 5 he’s well aware of the threats by Astana and Marseille 13-KTM who obviously have ambitions on GC. “Personally, I don’t think I’m able to win the Tour of Hainan”, Giraud said, “but I’d like to grab another stage win and we’ll play our cards for GC with other riders. However, after seeing Astana riding today, it’ll be difficult for us to get a back to back overall victory but the spectacle will be great on stage 8 for sure.”