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“Never before had a team won all stages and GC in a UCI sanctioned HC race. But we’re not the first big team coming to the Tour of Hainan. Argos-Shimano, Astana and other Pro Teams have taken part in this race before us but they...

Photo: Tour of Hainan 2013






28.10.2013 @ 15:50 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Belkin completed their dominant showing in the Tour of Hainan when Theo Bos made it a clean sweep for the Dutch team by winning the final stage in a bunch sprint. Moreno Hofland won the race overall in what Bos described as a unique moment for the Dutchmen.


When the Tour of Hainan kicked off on October 20, a team had never managed to win all stages and the overall in a 2.HC race. At the end of the 9-stage race, Belkin has become the first team to make the feat after the Dutch squad completely dominated the Chinese race.


Moreno Hofland kicked off the showing on stage 1 when he was one of three Belkin riders that made it into the 15-rider breakaway  that decided the stage. The final 8 stages all ended in bunch sprints with Theo Bos winning 6 of the stages and Hofland taking over sprinting duties on the final days when Bos had been dropped.


However, the team's clean sweep came under threat on the final stage when a crash brought down Tom Leezer and Jos Van Emden and severely hampered the Belkin train. However, Hofland managed to avoid the carnage and as the final lead-out man, he positioned Bos perfectly for the final sprint.


A mechanical was the next challenge for the Dutch team but Bos managed to keep his speed all the way to the line to finish off the work for the Dutchmen.


“We lost two men but Moreno didn’t hesitate at all”, Bos described. “He led me out. 350 metres before the line, he brought me in a good position. With 150m to go, I started my sprint. I had a mechanical problem with my chain dropping but I had enough speed to bring the victory home.”


People have been critical of Belkin's dominance, stating that the competition was too easy for the only ProTeam in the race. However, Bos refutes the claim and points to the fact that the race has been attended by other big teams in the past.


“As our sponsor said, this is a unique moment for Belkin”, he said. “Never before had a team won all stages and GC in a UCI sanctioned HC race. But we’re not the first big team coming to the Tour of Hainan. Argos-Shimano, Astana and other Pro Teams have taken part in this race before us but they haven’t delivered as much as we did. We came with a very well balanced team to achieve that. In hilly stages when I was not up there anymore, Moreno was still in the group and the fastest of them all.


"We’re really proud of what we’ve done," he added. "Some people said it wasn’t fair or it’s been boring but we’ve done our job in the most professional way we could. We’ve taken the Tour of Hainan very seriously. We’ve also worked for our future with learning about our sprint train. We’ll take that into next year.”


Having the leader's jersey on the first day, Hofland defended his lead all the way to the end and won the race with an advantage of 1.07 over Frederic Amorison (Crelan). His teammates Leezer and Van Emden finished 3rd and 4th while Hofland also won the points competition and Belkin the teams classification.


Hofland is a neo-professional who hadn't won a race when he arrived in Chengmai for the start more than a week ago. The win is confirmation that he has a big future ahead of him.


“It’s great, great!”, he said. “In the first couple of days at the Tour of Hainan, I started thinking that it would be nice to win this race. I chased time bonus and my gap to the second rider on GC [Amorison] kept growing, so I made it! I’m very happy. The Tour of Hainan will always be special for me because it’ll remain my first pro win forever.”


Hofland had a tough start to the year but gradually adapted to the high-level racing in the WorldTour. He showed that he had good condition for the end of the season when he finished 3rd on the final stage of the WorldTour Tour of Beijing.


“A great feeling," he added. "I could only believe and really celebrate it when I crossed the line. For me, and also for the team, it has been a great tour. In my first professional year, I immediately bagged my first win. That makes me very happy. In the beginning of the season it was sometimes difficult for me, but after the Tour of Catalonia I became confident. I got some opportunities and I took them by taking a few podium finishes. I‘m very satisfied with my first year as pro.


“Winning here will give me a lot of morale now to train hard for next year and improve my cycling”, he continued “Here, I’ve learned how to organize a sprint train, how to deal with the yellow jersey and how to win again because as a young professional, it’s rare to win like in the junior ranks. This is very good for my confidence. I’m on the right way to be a good rider, I hope. My ultimate goal in cycling is to win a big classic.” 


Sports director Michiel Elijzen was happy to see the team's 10 wins at the Chinese race elevate them to 2nd behind Omega Pharma-Quick Step on the winners list for 2013.


“Jos and Tom fell in the last three kilometres," he said. “Fortunately, it had no significant impact. They received the same time as the winner. The boys had prepared very well for the race and trained hard for it. Every day, they were motivated and combative. We wanted to take the 30th victory, but when we noticed that there was more in it for us, we went for that.


"Until the very last race day of the year we stayed focused," he added. "It shows that we really are a professional team. In the past, other WorldTour teams raced here, but did not win as much as us. We were able to win here not only because we had the two fastest men, but also because we were strong as a team.” 


With the Tour of Hainan done and dusted, the 2013 season has come to an end for Belkin who will resume racing in January at the Tour Down Under.



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