While most professional cyclists are well into their off season at this time of year, 22 squads found their way to Fuzhou, located on the southeastern Chinese coast, for one last race of the year, the 3 stage Tour of Fuzhou. Now in its third year, the Tour of Fuzhou has consistently attracted strong continental and pro continental teams looking for racing late in the year, with many hoping to grab some of the last UCI points available.
Stage one got underway with a light drizzle falling in the city, as the six rider squads set off for a mostly flat run around the city, for a total of just over 122km on China’s wide open four lane highways.
The racing was slow to get started, with the group staying together through the first 40km before a few ill fated attacks began rolling away. The largest gap of the day peaked at just over 20 seconds, as the sprinters’ teams kept a close eye on the front.
Veteran sprinters like Mattia Gavazzi and his Amore & Vita team stayed near the front, as the omnipresent yellow and black of RTS-Santic lurked through the peloton, shepherding pre race favorite Boris Shpilevsky to the front when the time called.
The first test came 53km into the stage, with KOM points on offer at the top of a slight rise over one of the several bridges throughout the city. A few riders hit out for an attack on the approach, staying away to pick up the only KOM points of the day. Chinese rider Meiying Wang (Hengxiang) was first across, taking the opportunity for an easy KOM jersey ahead of the major climbs awaiting on stage two.
The first points sprint came just five km later, when another sprinting veteran, ASC Dukla Praha’s Alois Kankovsky jumped ahead of the group to pick up maximum points. The group then came back together, and for the most part, stayed that way until the odometers hit 81km at the second and final intermediate sprint of the stage.
A small group escaped chasing the second round of points, with the Korean rider Kim Ok Cheol (Seoul Cycling Team) first across the line, shutting out Kankovsky and Shpilevsky for points.
Attacks started coming faster in the final 40km, with a small group of riders constantly dangling off the front, fueled by counter attack after counter attack. The flat, wide open roads proved to be too much for the breaks and the predicted field sprint eventually came together. Shpilevsky and Kankovsky went head to head again, and Shpilevsky again came out ahead, with Kankovsky taking second and Mehdi Sohrabi (Tabriz Petrochemical) in third.
The second place would be enough for Kankovsky to take the Kenda green points jersey. Meiying Wang donned the Champion System polka dot jersey on the podium after picking up the only KOM points of the day, and Wen Long Zhang (Giant – Champion System) was awarded the white KMC jersey as the top Chinese rider in the GC.