Kiwi James Oram held on for 15th place on the opening stage of the Tour of Quanzhou Bay as wind split the race apart.
The 100km flat stage initially looked to be a straightforward opener to the three-day race in China, but strong winds turned the day on its head as peloton broke down and splits appeared.
The first of the splits came early in the race on the opening lap, with Oram making into the front group of around 20 riders, while Colombian Brayan Chaves and local rider Yikui Niu chased on behind. The decisive and race winning move then came with less than five kilometres to go as a small group edged away to content the victory, with Mykhaylo Kononenko (Shenzhen Xidesheng Cycling Team) taking the stage.
Oram crossed the line in 15th, 10-seconds down on the stage winner, while Niu was the next Mitchelton-BikeExchange rider home in 19th, 53-seconds behind Kononenko.
“The stage today was pancake flat, only a couple of motorway bridges to get the elevation numbers up. I’d say most riders weren’t expecting the race to split where it did, and the wind to really take its toll. It was a bit of a false sense of security thinking how hard can a 100km flat stage be!”
“On the first lap of the long finishing circuits, the race split in the cross tailwind, with a front group of roughly 15-20 quickly forming. I was in the right place to make this, but Nui and Brayan pushed hard in a small group behind to limit any losses.”
“In the final 25km no one really wanted to work. Attacks were thick and fast, and by 4km to go a small group finally got away for the win. I hung on to the second behind this.
“I think tomorrow could quite easily pan out the same as today, as no team here is really strong enough to control the race if the wind picks up. We’ll keep the same plan as today, looking for the right breakaways, to really get the most out of this race heading before Fuzhou. Hopefully I can find a few seconds on the road to move up the GC.”