7th September, 2019 – Weichang, Chengde, China: Tour of China Stage 1 saw a 96 km circuit race, featuring a category 4 climb, contested at kilometer 21 and 69. The Start/finish doubled as intermediate sprint at kilometer 48, offering sprint classification points for grabs. At 9 AM, 130 riders from 22 teams made their grand départ into 2 weeks of exciting racing.
The peloton was active from the gun, rapidly covered the first 15 km at 60 km/h before approaching the first categorized climb, which caused a split in the group. A group of 7 escapees, including Chinese rider Jiankun Liu (Michelton – BikeExchange) made the selection, later joined by Rohan du Plooy (PROTOUCH), was the first break of the day.
The race within the race was white-hot during the first ascent, with Jambalyamts Sainbayar (Ferei Pro Cycling) and Ilya Davidenok (Shenzhen Xidesheng Cycling Team) eventually securing 1st. and 2nd. Respectively ahead of the bunch through the first KOM point, before returning to the peloton, while Jayde Julius (PROTOUCH) and Jeroen Meijers (Taiyuan MIOGEE cycling team) made the second big move of the stage. After a failed bridging attempt by Chengshuo Miao (Hengxiang Cycling Team), the duo built a 45s lead, which was obliterated by Hengxiang’s furious pace before the race reached intermediate sprint. Roy Eefting from Memil Pro Cycling piped Bin Harrif Mohd Saleh (Terengganu Inc. TSG Cycling Team) and Matthem Gibson (Burgos – BH) at the line, snatching his first few sprint classification points at Tour of China 2019.
Break of the day consisted of Tegshbayar Batsaikhan, Jambalyamts Sainbayar (FEREI Pro Cycling Team) and Marco Maronese (Baridani CSF), with a maximum time gap of 42s proving ample for their KOM attack, Maronese and Sainbayar rolled through the second KOM of the day ahead of the peloton with a healthy margin.
From left: Roy Eefting, Marco Benfatto and Mohd Hariff Saleh
The lumpy parcours of today’s stage was problematic for the 6 riders who were spat out the back, while the peloton held a strong pace and kept the breakaway duo in check. Into the last kilometers, the break of the day was devoured while sprint teams set up their sprinters for the fight to the line. The final 3 kilometers on were perfectly straight tilting slightly downward, made for a tough fight for positions. Bardiani CSF and Androni Giocattoli – Sidermec were the two biggest teams headbutting their way through the final stretch while a hectic sprint saw riders colliding into the barriers. Andrea Guardini (Bardiani CSF) initiated the bunch sprint, but was passed by 2016 Tour of China II overall winner Marco Benfatto (Androni Giocattoli – Sidermec), who navigated through the field from right side, adding an 11th. stage trophy to his palmares. Roy Eefting (Memil pro cycling) and Mohd Harrif Bin Saleh (Terengganu Inc. TSG cycling team) rounded out the podium.
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