Melissa Hoskins secured overall Tour of Chongming Island victory today and handed her GreenEDGE-AIS team its first ever stage race win in Asia. Only three seconds separated Hoskins from incumbent yellow jersey Monia Baccaille (MCipollini Giambenini) at the start of today’s 79.2km ‘Shanghai East Beach – Chenjia Town Cup’ circuit race, but Hoskins gathered enough bonus points from the three intermediate sprints to set up her win in a gripping finale.
A fun-loving Monia Baccaille before the start of stage three. The former Italian National Road Cycling Champion has brought sparkle and speed to Chongming in equal measures.
Earlier in the day, Hoskins spoke of the challenge ahead, but she never doubted that overall victory was possible. “Today is all about trying to get the yellow jersey back and find those three seconds on MCipollini,” said Hoskins, sipping on a Coke before the stage start. “This is a new position for me. I’m only young, but I’ve got Judith (Arndt) and all of these experienced girls trying to help me through and show me how it should be done. I’ve just got to continue to put all my faith in the girls; they’ve been just fantastic so far and I don’t see why we can’t do something special today.”
With three intermediate sprints offering a combined nine seconds of time bonuses, and an overall stage bonus of ten seconds, six riders – race leader Baccaille, Hoskins at 3”, Rochelle Gilmore (Faren Honda Team) at 16”, Shelley Olds (AA Drinks – Leontien.nl) at 16”, Chloe Hosking (Specialized Lululemon) at 16”and De Vocht at 17” – out of the 84-strong field had a mathematical chance of winning the overall general classification. However, the odds were firmly with Hoskins and Baccaille; undoubtedly the most consistent and evenly matched sprinters at this year’s race. Before them, lay eleven laps of a flat, non-technical and wide circuit (7.2 kilometres in length), with intermediate sprints taking place at the conclusion of every third lap.
With prospective winner’s teams holding the peloton together at an average speed of 40kph, MCipollini led the way into the first intermediate sprint, with Hoskins, Baccaille, Olds and De Vocht leaping clear of the peloton at 300 metres to go. Stuck behind the compact trio ahead, De Vocht finished fourth, with Olds narrowly edged into third as Baccaille and Hoskins tussled into second and first respectively. “I think we wanted to make each other realize that we were both there,” smiled Hoskins cheekily after the stage had wrapped up.
The same four riders – with the addition of MacLean, who ensured Hoskins went clear first this time – duelled in the second intermediate sprint. This time, it was a clean win for Hoskins; besting Baccaille by half a bike-length, with De Vocht trailing behind for third. Spurred into action, MCipollini Giambenini riders positioned themselves early for the last intermediate sprint and finally delivered the extra boost needed for their leader to place first. Olds filled the metre of clear daylight that shone between Baccaille and Hoskins, in third.
Inside the final two laps, Charlotte Becker (Specialized Lululemon) and Marta Bastianelli (MCipollini Giambenini) broke free of the bunch, generating a 15” lead. It would be impossible for Hoskins to win if the pair stayed away to consume maximum points, and a situation GreenEDGE-AIS had to manage.
Eager spectators searched futilely for gaps in the finish line throng, which had progressively grown into the thousands, craning their necks over barriers in anticipation of the same two riders rounding the last sweeping turn ahead of the main field.
Instead, a bristling bunch emerged onto the wide finishing straight with 500 metres to go, and it was Hoskins’ two team mates, 2011 World Time Trial Champion Judith Arndt, and former junior Individual Pursuit World Champion Jessie MacLean, setting a fearsome pace; shattering the field and leaving only MCipollini and GreenEDGE with three riders apiece.
With Liesbet De Vocht (Stichting Rabo Wome) on her wheel and Baccaille at her left side, Hoskins leapt off MacLean’s wheel with 200 metres remaining. Though previous sprints had been too close to call, Hoskins’ back wheel scorched over the line before anyone else’s front wheel had made contact. A delighted Hoskins threw her arms skywards then looked back immediately in search of her teammates, with whom she couldn’t wait to share her special moment.
POST-STAGE WITH MELISSA HOSKINS
“I felt good during the whole stage but, even more so, I was so confident in my team. We knew at the end of the day it was going to come down to the final sprint no matter what. For the whole race, I just had complete confidence in my team. Judith said to me “you don’t worry about anything other than sprinting that last 200 metres”. It worked out perfectly. She came into that last corner (500m to go) so hot; we got the gap that we needed and Jess’s final sprint was…well, I was hanging on trying to catch up to her, and it was up to me to just bury my head and take it to the line.
I’ll be doing road cycling full-time next year after the Olympics, so the next couple of years I want to totally focus on the road and get a bit stronger. Hopefully I get to wear the GreenEDGE colours again next year because I love the team, I love the girls on the team, and we just all get along so well. It’s a whole team that won this race; not just an individual. Without them, there’s no way I would even be in the top ten. They were absolutely brilliant today, and for the last two days. I’m so glad I could finish off the job for them.
This race has been a lot of fun. It has been amazing to see so many people watching every day, the roads are good, the hotel and food has been excellent and it’s well organized. If the calendar allows next year, I’ll be back at Chongming.”
General classification (Yellow jersey) – Melissa Hoskins (GreenEDGE-AIS)
Points classification (Green jersey) – Melissa Hoskins (GreenEDGE-AIS)
Best Asian Rider classification (Blue jersey) – Jutatip Maneephan (Thailand National Team)
Best team classification by time – MCipollini Giambenini
Best Asian team classification by time – China Chongming – Giant
STAGE THREE RESULTS
FINAL INDIVIDUAL GENERAL CLASSIFICATION