Nippo’s Marini wins penultimate stage at Qinghai Lake
Nicolas Marini decided to celebrate his 24th birthday a day early with a Stage 12 bunch sprint victory at the 16th Tour of Qinghai Lake (2.HC) in Yinchuan, China on Friday.
“It was very fast race,” Marini told Eurosport. “Riccardo Stacchiotti did a perfect job and I have to thank him a lot today. He put me in a perfect position to win.
“I was angry after all that’s happened … no wins this year, the crash from yesterday, I wanted to give up, but I said there are two more stages to go — I have to finish this race!”
Marini is no stranger to success in the UCI Asia Tour. The win marked his second victory at the race since his Stage 8 win last year. Marini also claimed three stage wins at Tour of China II in 2015, as well as a runner-up on general classification that same year. The Brescia native also has stage wins from Tour of China I, Tour of Japan and Tour of Taihu Lake over the past two years also.
Bazhkou took both intermediate sprints before the trio was slowed by vicious crosswinds and swallowed by the surging peloton inside 10km to go.
“There was a lot of wind today and it was full gas in the final 10km,” explained Marini.
"I did not have good legs earlier in the tour and wasn’t feeling very good, but day by day I was feeling better. I knew in a few days I would be good and could win."
While one stage remains, the current race leader Yonathan Monsalve (Qinghai Tianyoude) needs only to stay upright and avoid disaster to become the first Qinghai team rider to win the race widely touted as the ‘unofficial’ fourth Grand Tour.
The Venezuelan Olympian enters Saturday’s final 111km city circuit stage in Zhongwei with a 20-second lead over Colombian Mauricio Ortega (RTS-Monton Racing), who has already wrapped up his second straight Qinghai Lake KOM jersey, while German Bjorn Thurau (Kuwait-Cartucho.es) sits in third place at 24 seconds back.
Örken still tops the points classification standings with a seven-point lead over ‘Best Asian Rider’ Yevgeniy Gidich (Vino-Astana Motors) with three intermediate sprints with a total of 15 first-place bonus points up for grabs in the finale.
While Örken and Gidich battle it out for the green jersey, Marini hopes his luck continues and his birthday wish comes true.
“Tomorrow is my birthday,” he said. “So, I want to win again and we will do our very best to make that happen.”
Prior to the start of Stage 12, UCI officials confirmed that three riders caught up in the previous stage pileup were sent to the hospital due to injuries sustained, including Venezuelan Jackson Rodriguez of the China Continental Team of Gansu Bank, and a pair of Meridiana Kamen riders — Matteo Rabottini (ITA) and Uros Repse (SLO). A banged up Hideto Nakane (JAP) of Nippo started on Friday before ultimately abandoning the stage.
Stage 12 results, top 3
1. Nicolas Marini, ITA, Nippo-Vini Fantini, 2:14:35
2. Jon Aberasturi, ESP, Team UKYO, s.t.
3. Eduard Michael Grosu, ROU, Nippo-Vini Fantini, s.t.
1. Yonathan Monsalve, VEN, Qinghai Tianyoude Cycling Team, 39:05:32
2. Mauricio Ortega, COL, RTS-Monton Racing, +0:20
3. Bjorn Thurau, GER, Kuwait-Cartucho.es, +0:24
Race leader (yellow jersey): Yonathan Monsalve, VEN, Qinghai Tianyoude Cycling Team
Points leader (green jersey): Ahmet Örken, TUR, Torku Şekerspor
Mountains leader (polka dot jersey): Mauricio Ortega, COL, RTS-Monton Racing
Best Asian rider (blue jersey): Yevgeniy Gidich, KAZ, Vino-Astana Motors
Teams classification: Kuwait-Cartucho.es, 117:36:59