Taiji Nishitani secured his second stage win of 2012 in Xiangyang today and was rewarded with enough points to elevate him into the lead of the Tour of China points classification. With the Japan Cup a little over a month away, the diminutive sprinter may also find himself at the top of the AsiaTour individual rankings at the season’s conclusion.
Note: Cycling iQ is not on-site in China. The below report and images have been provided by the Tour of China organising committee. Some spell-checking has been applied, but the report has otherwise been left “as is” for authenticity.]
After a transfer day the riders started the fourth stage of the Tour of China in Xiangyang. Rain clouds loomed before the start but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd that gathered to watch the start of the race. The crowd witnesses the most exciting racing that we’ve seen so far in this tour.
Although prior stages saw riders attacking literally from the gun, today was a little more relaxed, but this feeling didn’t last. A couple of riders got away from the peleton before the first intermediate sprint but they were unable to stay away and they were swallowed up. We saw a group sprint for the first intermediate stage. The post lull sprint lull in speed tempted riders to make escapes, most ending in failure. One group did, however, get away. Six riders took off up and they worked hard together and managed to stay away from the group. This marked the first time in the tour that a break has managed to stay away more than a few minutes.
With a group away, and not containing anyone who was a threat to the overall lead in the rankings, the peleton was happy to sit up a little and let the breakaway group slowly build up a lead. The lead group got up to a nearly two minute lead before it started to fall. The group worked well together until the second sprint point. After the sprint point two of the riders sat up, leaving a group of four including Andi Bajc (SLC), Roman Semyonov (AS2), Hamid Bagher Shiri Sisan (UST) and Chun Kai Feng (ACT) to try to hold off the peleton. It looked as though the riders might be able to hang on for the win because of how well they were cooperating and their distance to the field. In their favor were the conditions which began to deteriorate because rain began to fall.
The rain was light at first and becoming heavier as the race wore on. The race saw rain earlier in the week but it failed to slow the speeds and the group of four was caught after within the last ten kilometers. With the pack back together and finish line not far off, the pace increased. Riders reported that the peleton was nervous which was perhaps well-founded as there was a crash within the last three kilometers of the race sent Thomas Friel (CWO) to hospital with possible broken bones.
The increasingly heavy rain and the crash did not slow the riders down for the finishing sprint. The crash caused chaos in the peleton so Team Type 1-Sanofi was unable to organize a lead out and were not able to claim another stage win. The sprint was an every-man-for-himself affair in which Japanese rider Taiji Nishitani from the Aisan Racing Team nipped Angelo Furlan (CWO) for the stage win. The best that Team Type 1 could do was a third place with Alexander Serebryakov.
With the win, Nishitani took over the in the points classification, which marks yet another change in the leadership of the points classification. The other jerseys remained unchanged with Martin Pedersen (CWO) holding onto yellow, Matija Kvasina (TCT) in polka dots and Xu Gang (CSS) retaining the white jersey. Tomorrow the riders will compete in another circuit race in the city of Zaoyang 117 kilometers south of Xiangyang. Expect to see more fast racing and an another exciting sprint finish.
Individual General Classification (Yellow jersey): Martin Pedersen (Christina Watches – Onfone)
Points Classification (Blue jersey): Taiji Nishitani (Aisan Racing Team)
King of the Mountains Classification (Polka Dot jersey): Matija Kvasina (Tusnad Cycling Team)
Best Great China Rider Classification (White jersey): Xu Gang (Champion System Pro Cycling Team)
Teams General Classification: Christina Watches – Onfone
STAGE FOUR RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FOUR