Chinese national road race champion Yikui Niu sprinted to 10th place on another brutal and chaotic stage of the Tour of Taiyuan.
The 134.4-kilometre stage to Hejin Lianchi Park came with one categorised climb to deal with, but the lump in the middle of the stage proved not to be the problem as crosswinds wreaked havoc in the peloton.
The wind split the race apart on numerous occasions with Niu and Kiwi James Oram battling the conditions to make the front split. Both riders initially managed to make it into the select group off the front before Niu was dropped and had to fight his way back into contention ahead of the stage finish.
Several teams tried to split the bunch further as they looked to gain time on the general classification rivals, but nothing could stick, with the stage set for a sprint finale.
There was still more drama to come when Oram suffered a puncture in the closing kilometres and was forced to roll home with a flat tyre, while up ahead Niu got amongst the sprint to take 10th place.
“It was a super fast stage with strong crosswinds all day and an average speed of more than 48km/h! I had two tasks for the stage, to protect Oram in the crosswind and to try and do a good sprint in the final.”
“In the first part of the race there were many riders trying to attack in the crosswind and I tried hard to keep Oram and myself in the first group. Then in the middle of the stage I was dropped three times from the peloton and every time I could manage to come back. The last time I chased down a gap of nearly one minute all by myself.”
“In the final sprint Oram got a flat tyre so that was a big loss for my lead-out. I sprinted into the headwind too early and could only hold on for a top-10. I’m a bit disappointed by the result but happy with the effort we made in the race.”
“In the strong crosswinds I made the front split thanks to a huge pull by Niu, he saved me from smoking myself to get across. From then on, many teams tried to split the race, but no one had the power to gap their competition on GC.”
“It made for a very stressful day, with everyone fighting for position from start to finish. The boys were great at holding position, and it’s good to see Niu finish inside the top-10 of the stage.”
“I got a slow leak in the final 10-kilometres, but only in the last two corners was it almost flat, so I made it to the finish safely. It was too fast to stop in the last 10km to change it and still get back on, so I took the risk and made it to the line.”
Tour of Taiyuan – Stage 5 Results:
1. Martin Laas (Team Illuminate) 2:47:01
2. Lucas Carstensen (Bike Aid) ST
10. Yikui Niu (Mitchelton – BikeExchange) ST
Tour of Taiyuan – General Classification After Stage 5:
1. Cameron Piper (Team Illuminate) 5:49:47
2. Luca Raggio (Neri Sottoli – Selle Italia – KTM) +1:26
9. James Oram (Mitchelton – BikeExchange) +4:46