Chinese national road race champion Yikui Niu was Mitchelton-BikeExchange’s highest placed finisher as stage two of the Tour of Taiyuan ended in a sprint.
The 24-year-old took 16th place in the bunch kick for the line with Martin Lass (Team Illuminate) taking the victory. Kiwi James Oram finished safely in the bunch to maintain his top-10 placing on the general classification but drops one position to 10th due to time bonuses on the stage.
After yesterday’s brutal opening day, stage two’s 126-kilometre route from Zuoyun to Datong was a much more straight forward affair for the peloton. However, crosswinds threatened to change that and the bunch was blown apart midway through the stage, but with a long way still to go there was a regrouping before the finale.
The stage always looked to be an opportunity for the sprinters and so it proved with the fast men contesting the finish as Niu got up for a top-20 finish in the run to the line.
“Yesterday was a very hard stage, it took me a lot of effort to just finish the stage, but fortunately I was recovering well and feeling good today. During most of today’s stage there was strong crosswind and the peloton split into small pieces, but we could manage to come back to the same group with most of our riders except Wenhui Bi.”
“In the final sprint there was a good chance for me, but I guess I just followed the wrong wheel, with the Sapura rider in front of me suddenly slowing down before the finish line. But I’ve still got good legs and I’ll keep trying in the coming stages.”
“It was exciting racing with the windy conditions today. (Jiankun) Liu and Niu endeavoured to make the early breakaway. While Oram and (Ran) Hao were working together to conserve energy and be ready for the crosswind action and not get caught out.”
“There were five groups on the road at one point in the race, but all of the guys survived the stage without incident with Niu feeling better today for a creditable 16th in a bunch sprint. There’s still a lot of racing and terrain to contend with, so we will keep trying and work towards a stage result and ideally move Oram further up the GC rankings, it’s only five seconds to fifth overall”.
Tour of Taiyuan – Stage 2 Results:
1. Martin Laas (Team Illuminate) 2:59:50
2. Zhang Zheng (Hengxiang Cycling Team) ST
16. Yikui Niu (Mitchelton – BikeExchange) ST
Tour of Taiyuan – General Classification After Stage 2:
1. Cameron Piper (Team Illuminate) 5:49:47
2. Luca Raggio (Neri Sottoli – Selle Italia – KTM) +1:26
10. James Oram (Mitchelton – BikeExchange) +4:46