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Kirsten Wild (Hitec Products) outsprinted Shelley Olds (Bigla) and Giorgi Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) to the line on the opening stage of the Tour of Chongming Island on Wednesday. The three day Chinese tour serves as an appetizer of sorts to the Tour of Chongming World Cup on Sunday. Featuring similar terrain to the roads used in the one day race, which is to say flat, fast, wide and straight, the stage race is dominated by Sunday’s contenders. Wild won the overall last year and signalled her hopes of a repeat win with her stage victory.
“In the typical style of Chinese racing, it was a big swamp finish,” said Nettie Edmondson (Wiggle Honda). “We tried to do something today that didn’t quite work out. We’re happy to be on the podium with Gio, but we’re definitely chasing the win.”
The straightforward stage ended in the expected field sprint; however, it was smaller group than anticipated that powered to the line. High speeds in the final hour of racing saw around 20 riders lose contact with the main bunch. All of the pre-race favourites made the front split.
“It wasn’t exactly the most exciting racing until the sprint,” said Edmondson. “There were a few attacks. A few solo moves went away, a few groups, but there was nothing that stayed away for very long and nothing was threatening.”
In a race that is often decided by bonus seconds, the two intermediate sprints were nearly as hotly contested as the final. Olds won the first bonus sprint from Wild and Roxane Fournier (Poitou-Charentes.Futuroscope.86). Wild won the second sprint ahead of Bronzini and Annalisa Cucinotta (Alé Cipollini).
“The first intermediate sprint came at 48km,” said Edmondson. “It was a hectic one. There were a lot of team trains and individuals sprinting. Everyone was fresh. It was a bit of a nasty one.”
“The second sprint was a bit more organized,” Edmondson added. “It came at 90km, which was 17km from the finish.”
Several teams formed trains in the run-in to the finish, including Wiggle Honda, who looked to get Bronzini across the line first.
“I was with two teammates in the last 800 metres,” explained Bronzini. “Emilia Fahlin and Chloe Hosking took me through the last corner, and they had a little gap. Chloe checked to see where I was, and she couldn’t see because Wild hampered her view. They were afraid to lead-out Wild, so they sat up.”
“It was a bit of a misunderstanding because I was just on Kirsten’s wheel in the perfect way,” Bronzini added. “It’s fine. The stage today suited Kirsten more. When she started to sprint, it was a little bit hard to go out from here wheel. She is a powerful girl. Compared to me, she’s better at the downhill sprint.”
Wild will start stage two in the yellow leader’s jersey. Olds sits second overall, six seconds behind the race leader. Bronzini is a further nine seconds adrift.
“We plan to try another tactic tomorrow to get to that top step,” said Edmondson. “The overall is important to us, but two stage wins would be even better. We’re definitely going to pull out some different cards and challenge Kirsten. She’s been so dominating in the last few races, but she is beatable. We just have to get it right.”
We’re digging this video from Wiggle Honda out of China. Filmed before the start of the Tour of Chongming, the clip includes a great little interview with Edmondson, takes you inside a team meeting and introduces you some of the unique features of Chinese racing.
Tour of Chongming Island (2.1) Chongbei → Chongbei
Information out of the Chinese races is typically a bit hard to come by due to a variety of factors. Big thanks to Nettie Edmondson of Wiggle Honda for generously agreeing to daily phone calls to share insight into each of the four days of racing in Chongming.