So after Australia, I and 2 of my teammates went straight to China for the Tour of Hainan. A HC ranked event, which means it, carries a lot of UCI Points. Teams like Astana, Skill and Geox were all there. We joined up with another 4 guys. Hainan Island is located in about 100km south of China in the middle of the South-China Sea. It is your typical tropical island, with palm and coconut trees, beautiful beaches and honeymooners. To make it even better, we stayed in the 5star Narada Resort in Sanya.
The first day was one of the harder days, as my legs still suffering a bit of fatigue from Sun tour and the travel. Bradley Potgieter well as he spent most of the day in the break. He was however brought back 20km to go on a 7km climb. The climb split the bunch and only about 40 of us made it in the front. I had a bad sprint, and only managed to get 7th on the stage.
Stage 2, was won solo by a rider that missed the move the first day. I managed to get 4th on the stage. This stage set the pattern for the tour, as it was flat and fast and dominated by attacks and counter-attacks. But because of the pace and flat terrain it was quite easy and boring just to sit in the bunch. So the next few days rolled on in much the same way. I managed to get 5s bonus in primes on the 3rd stage to move me up to 3rd place in GC.
But it was quite difficult to protect 3rd, as everyday a break would go clear containing one of the 40 riders on GC. The riders in front would pick up vital seconds and leapfrog me on GC. Quite frustrating. I tried this same move more than once, but the bunch wasn’t content to let me go. I managed to get a few top 10s in the next few stages.
On stage 6 things went horribly wrong, as we were nearing a sprint prime. The guy next to me lost balance and ploughed straight into me as he kicked for the line. I ended up crashing on my back and I hit my head pretty hard. As I started riding again I was dazed, nauseous and confused. At one point I had to consider pulling out. Then a few moments later, I got a front wheel puncture. As that was not enough…as I was about re-join, I got another front wheel puncture. Luckily I was able to make back in the bunch, but then my rear-derailleur hanger, weekend from the crash, snapped. I had to get on the spare bike, but manage to get back with about 15km to go. I fortunately finished in the bunch and lost no time.
The next few days the body was a bit sore and I suffered from whiplash as my neck was terribly sore. But the 2nd last stage…stage 8 was all important. Sitting in 7th on GC and being the last road stage with a climb to split things up, we were determined to move me up in GC. A break went clear early on, but we brought things back together before the climb at 60km to set-up a platform to attack. The team also stretched the bunch as we started the climb and put the Yellow jersey under difficulty. Astana came to help and drove the advantage clear. We were about 25 over the top, while another 25 re-joined. I managed to get 1st in the 2nd prime, and 2nd in the 3rd prime. However, the most seconds were on offer at the finish. I started my sprint a bit too early in the headwind and got passed by Valentin Iglinsky and Danielle Colli in the final few meters. This moved Iglinsky into first place, with me in 2nd 14s behind.
Had I won the stage, it would have been a battle royal on the final criterium stage, with a maximum of 16s in bonuses up for grabs. However, it now would be unlikely to overtake Iglinsky, as I needed to get all the bonuses, while he got 1s or nothing. Thus the goal was to defend 2nd. We achieved the goal, and I finished 7th on the stage.
The Tour of Hainan proved to be somewhat of a breakthrough as I managed to get onto the podium in pretty big tour. A result that I am very proud of.
Keep following my blog for an update on the MTN OFM classic were I got another win.