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"We’re making history for ourselves and for the Tour of Hainan. In our country, the Netherlands, the race is in the news every day. To get a better ranking for the team in terms of victories boosts our motivation for next year,&q...

Photo: Tour of Hainan 2013






26.10.2013 @ 14:39 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Belkin have dominated the Tour of Hainan by winning the first six stage of the race but today they took their performance to a new level when they captured the first four places on stage 7. While the Dutch team may appear a bit greedy, stage winner Theo Bos - who has taken 5 of the 7 victories - sees the race as an important preparation for next season and a testament to the team's progress.


It's a rare occurrence in professional cycling that a team captures all four places in the top 4 in a race but that was what happened in today's seventh stage of the Tour of Hainan. Belkin who had already won the first 6 stages of the race, not only swept the podium with Theo Bos, Lars Boom and race leader Moreno Hofland, Tom Leezer even completed the dominance by taking fourth.


The result may be an unusual one but it was a consequence of an unusual finish with a turn that was closer to the line than the riders expected. When the four Belkin riders entered the corner in the first 4 positions, the short and slightly descending finishing straight made it impossible for their rivals to pass them.


“It wasn’t really our goal but we expected the last corner to being further from the finish than it actually was”, Bos explained. “I lost the wheels of my lead out men in the last corner and I thought it was no problem but I saw the finish line very close, so it became a very short sprint. In this particular finale, it was difficult for the riders in sixth or seventh position to follow the first guys taking the curve."


"I was lucky that I didn’t have to break but behind me, they had to. The road leading to the finish line was also a little bit downhill. That’s why the first four riders at the corner stayed at the first four places.”


Yesterday Bos was dropped on the final climb and today the stage contained the only category 1 climb of the entire race inside the first 10km of the stage. Once again the sprinter got into difficulty and he was surprised to see that no one tried to exploit the situation.


“I got dropped from the second group and I found myself in a grupetto at the end of the downhill”, he described. “If a team didn’t want me back and decided to pull, I’d never have come back, but eventually a breakaway went and no team chased. That was my chance to make it back to the peloton who slowed down.”


Belkin is the only ProTeam in the race and people have started to question why they assert their superiority in such a dominant fashion. The team has, however, used their many wins to move into 2nd on the winners list for 2013 and Bos sees it as important to move up in the standing to build confidence for the coming season.


“We don’t let any stage away”, he commented. “Maybe in such a situation, it doesn’t look nice that we don’t give any other team a chance to win but it’s also a professional sport. We train hard to win races. We take the Tour of Hainan very seriously. Today with 35 victories for the whole 2013 season, Belkin becomes the second most successful team in the world by the numbers behind Omega Pharma-Quick Step (53). We’re making history for ourselves and for the Tour of Hainan. In our country, the Netherlands, the race is in the news every day."


"To get a better ranking for the team in terms of victories boosts our motivation for next yearm" he added. "It’s nice to finish the season this way but today we also learned about our lead out. I don’t know if it has happened before that this team [formerly known as Rabobank] has won so much, we may not be the best team in the world but we’re definitely on the right track in all aspects of racing: in the classics, overall classifications in Grand Tours and sprinting as well.”


Hofland confident

For Hofland, today's third place allowed him to extend his lead over 2nd placed Frederic Amorison (Crelan) and with just one slightly hilly and a flat final stage coming up, he feels confident that he can win the race overall.


 “Tomorrow is the last stage with a few hills”, he said. “Looking at the profile, I should be able to survive in the first group. I’ll give everything and it should be ok.”


Sports director: It's a healthy greed

Sports director Michiel Elijzen once again praised his team for their efforts on the long 217km stage.


"We really had to work to make it a bunch sprint today," he said. "The first nine kilometres were uphill and that made it very hard. Just after the top, only Theo and Dennis van Winden weren’t with the first 32. Theo had to chase for around 100 kilometres. When he returned, the team controlled and reeled in a small break that was formed later.” 


Like Bos, he refuted the claims that the team is too greedy.


“It’s a healthy greed,” he said. "I do not think anyone can really make us suffer, but if we were to get in trouble, we have several riders who are able to pick up the slack – as has been the case all week. Now we are seven for seven, we would like to make it nine for nine. Besides that, we want to win the GC. If we manage to do that we’ll have 38 victories for the year. We can say we’ve had a successful season then.” 


Taciak takes mountains jersey

It’s not easy for other teams to get exposure in the Tour of Hainan where the domination of Belkin Pro Cycling is enormous. Pro Continental team CCC Polsat from Poland managed to come under the spotlight with taking the polka dot jersey over from Ukraine’s Vitaly Buts. It all happened in the only first category climb of the race, right at the exit of Wuzhishan after the start of stage 7. The unique characteristic of the race with 210 kilometres of competition following the only climb of the day forced a few riders to warm up before the start as they feared not having the right heart rate to climb from the gun.

“Our focus was short today”, Taciak explained after the stage. “We gave all we had in the climb. My team-mate Nikolay Mihlaylov attacked with four kilometers to go to the top, I followed him and grabbed the points. That was mission accomplished. With Belkin being so strong and not giving us the freedom to escape, our only way to get something out of this race is the King of the Mountain price.”

“I’m a climber”, said the former Polish champion in French language as he rode for three years (2006 to 2008) as an amateur for CC Etupes, the club that recently brought to professionalism young French climbing sensations Thibaut Pinot and Warren Barguil. “It was difficult for a foreigner like me to find a spot in a French pro team. I’ve been with CCC Polsat for three years and I hope to continue. Our chief has the motivation to make this team grow and enter the World Tour. Now we’re in out tenth month of racing this year and we’re still motivated as we show here at the Tour of Hainan.”


The Tour of Hainan ends on Monday.



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