Brad Evans talks Tour of Hainan – Stage 7

By Aaron S. Lee

German sprinter Max Walscheid narrowly edges Australian Brenton Jones for his fourth stage win this week; NZ Bike catches up with Jones’ teammate Evans, who was forced to withdraw from race due to illness.

SANYA, China—Max Walscheid (Giant-Alpecin) needed every last centimetre of the 127.4km road race from Wuzhishan to Sanya to clip Australian sprinter Brenton Jones (Drapac) at the finish of stage 7 of the Tour of Hainan in Sanya, China, on Friday, October 28.

It was the fourth stage win of the week – and fledgling pro career – for the 23-year-old German, who once again proved he has fully recovered from an early-season training crash involving six Giant-Alpecin riders in Spain.

“Brenton had a good sprint,” said Walscheid. “I was early at the front and I had to accelerate a few times and then go back, because it was still a long home straight and there was a headwind. I didn’t want to make a mistake and go too early.

“In the end, Brenton was coming with speed and I had to fight really hard to get past him,” he continued.

“My team worked incredibly hard all stage long and I wanted to win really badly.

“After tomorrow’s climbs, I will try to go for another victory on the final stage.”

While Walscheid was all smiles after the race, NZ Bike talked with a visibly disappointed Jones following the podium ceremony.

“I’m pissed off,” admitted Jones. “The boys did a really good job; I felt good today and knew I was going to have a good ride. I’m happy I’m on the podium and it’s a good start to finishing off the tour well, but I sprint for wins, not second-places.”

With Brad Evans (NZL) withdrawing overnight due to illness and Bernard Sulzberger (AUS) physically spent after a day in the break, Jones found himself in the final down two riders. But the Aussie offered no excuses.

“Bernie was in the break, so we didn’t have him in the leadout at all and we didn’t have Brad, who’s been our second strongest guy in the train and influential this week in the leadout,” explained Jones, who won the last stage in Hainan last year. “So we missed Brad … we missed Bernie, but I’m so happy the rest of us did a good job and I fought hard.

“Max has been on form all week,” he added. “I had a good sprint and thought I had it, but he got me right on the line.”

Jones is one of many team riders currently looking for a ride in 2017 after Drapac decided to close it’s doors on its Professional Continental squad in order to pour its financial resources into an partnership with Cannondale in the WorldTour. The 24-year-old is hoping a strong showing in Hainan, along with a palmarés highlighted this season with two stage wins and a points classification at Tour de Korea (2.1), may be just enough to turn heads.

“It would be disappointing to go down to Continental next year,” said Jones. “I’d love to stay on a pro team, so I hope there are a few teams out there that can see a bit of potential in what I’ve got. I have a lot of attributes to offer a team and I think a strong result on Sunday will help my cause.”

For 24-year-old race leader Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), who leads stage 6 winner Matej Mohoric (SLO) and his Lampre-Merida teammate Przemyslaw Niemiec (POL) by 3 and 7 seconds respectively, only two stages stand between him and claiming the overall win. However, tomorrow’s stage 8 features the final day of climbing and perhaps the last chance for his nearest rivals to contend for the yellow jersey.

“I gave up the KOM jersey today,” said Lutsenko (KAZ), who relinquished the polka-dot mountains jersey to new KOM leader Guangtong Ma (Wisdom-Hengxiang) of China. “The yellow jersey is most important for me and the team at the moment. 

“Today we rested in the peloton so that tomorrow we can put all of our energy into defending the lead all the way to the end.”

NZ Bike caught up with Evans for one last diary entry before the 2015 Tour of Southland winner heads home and begins preparations for next season.

Evans’ diary entry: Stage 7 – Wuzhishan to Sanya, 127.4km
Last night was rough, as I became was very ill.
The chest infection I was carrying worsened and I came out with a fever overnight. I hoped to start, but had no energy this morning and knew I was not capable of finishing or contributing.
I could have started but that makes for a worse day and would make me even sicker. It’s always a little sad to not finish, as I am known as a battler that gives my all.
The team had a great performance today with Bernie (Sulzberger) in a dangerous break that actually stood a chance. BJ (Brenton Jones) had a good sprint to run second behind a red-hot Max Walscheid.
There is another climbing stage tomorrow, which may give our two classification rider Bernie and Lachie (Lachlan Norris) another opportunity for a result. The final stage on Sunday is one that BJ won last year, and after today’s performance I see no reason why he can’t be up there in the mix for a repeat performance this year.
The hotel we are staying at in Sanya is the nicest yet. It is a full-blown resort, and from what I understand one of most famous ones in China. It’s called the Mangrove Tree Resort for those that want to Google it.
Well, this unfortunately is the end of my race, so flights have been changed now and I am heading home early tomorrow. As for me and my immediate future, I have to weigh up my options and see what is best and decide in coming weeks.
In the meantime, thanks for checking in with me this week from China, hope to bump into you down the road again soon.
Until next time…
Brad Evans

Image credit Adrian Hoe / Tour of Hainan

Stage 7 Classification
1. Max Walscheid, GER, Giant-Alpecin, 2:51:45
2. Brenton Jones, AUS, Drapac Pro Cycling, s.t.
3. Rafael Andriato, BRA, Wilier Triestina-Southeast, s.t.
General Classification
1. Alexey Lutsenko, KAZ, Astana Pro Team, 29:05:47
2. Matej Mohoric, SLO, Lampre-Merida, 0:03
3. Przemyslaw Niemiec, POL, Lampre-Merida, 0:07
Classification Leaders
Race Leader (Yellow Jersey): Alexey Lutsenko, KAZ, Astana Pro Team
Points Leader (Green Jersey): Max Walscheid, GER, Team Giant-Alpecin
Mountains leader (Polka-dot Jersey): Guangtong Ma, CHN, Wisdom-Hengxiang Cycling Team
Best Asian Rider (Blue Jersey): Alexey Lutsenko, KAZ, Astana Pro Team
Most Aggressive Rider: Adrian Kurek, POL, CCC Sprandi Polkowice
Teams classification:  Lampre-Merida, ITA, 87:18:50
Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to NZ Bike Magazine.
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