Nippo-Vini Fantini sprinter Eduard Grosu may have admittedly found it hard to adapt to the extreme elevation peaking at 4,120 metres during the first week of racing at the Tour of Qinghai Lake, but the 25-year-old Romanian road race champion earned his third sprint victory — second straight — under 1500m on Stage 8 in Zhangye, China on Sunday.
With two catégorie 2 climbs averaging 3700m above sea level inside the first 85km on the longest stage (237km) of the two-week, 13-stage UCI 2.HC Asia Tour event, Grosu quickly found himself falling off pace and needing to re-connect with his sprint rivals.
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“I’m pretty happy because you know after the second climb the Manzana Postobón team did a very hard pace and I was dropped for like 300 metres from the top of the mountain,” Grosu explained to Eurosport after out-sprinting the field. “I was the last sprinter to lose contact from the group, but in that moment I realised the legs were good.”
Grosu, who also won Stage 3, has admittedly learned from a late effort on the fifth stage that cost him what would have been another victory.
“In the final we put all the team in the front to work, and I was like fifth place in the last corner and like yesterday I started the sprint early, like 300m, and nobody passed me,” said Grosu, who lifted the green points jersey from two-time stage runner-up Luca Pacioni (Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia) with the win. “I am very happy I already take green jersey and I want to take it to the final.”
Initially, three riders broke free from the field after 30km of racing before being joined shortly after by three chasers. Frenchman Alexis Guerin (Delko-Marseille Provence KTM), Australian Freddy Ovett (Australian Cycling Academy), Slovenian Gregor Gazvoda (Adria Mobil), Dutchman Wim Kleiman (Monkey Town Continental Team), Belarusian Stanislau Bazhkou (Minsk Cycling Club) and ‘Best Asian Rider’ Ilya Davidenok (Beijing XDS-Innova) of Kazakhstan held off the peloton for 200km with a maximum time gap of four minutes before being caught with 7km remaining.
“I am so proud,” admitted Grosu, who proudly crossed the finish wearing his national colours. “Yesterday all the Romanian people send me messages and they are so happy for me and the jersey because it is the first time when they show that in the pro peloton and they are so happy for that.”
The points classification is the only change, as blue jersey remains on the back of Davidenok, while both the yellow leader’s jersey and polka-dot mountains jersey is on lockdown by two-time stage winner Hernan Aguirre (Manzana Postobón) of Colombia, who has a 1-minute 5-second advantage on general classification over teammate Hernando Bohórquez.
Only five sprint stages remain, starting with a 175km undulating parcours from Jinchang to Wuwei before the race’s only rest day on Tuesday.
For full stage and race results, click here.
Photo: Adrian Hoe
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