Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria is just two wins shy of UCI WorldTour season leader Marcel Kittel with four stages remaining in China.
The WorldTour’s return to China continued on Friday with the second stage of the 2017 Tour of Guangxi, and four-time Giro d’Italia stage winner Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) picked up his second straight victory after kicking off the race with a circuit win in Beihai.
Quick-Step’s Gaviria edged German Max Walscheid (Quick-Step) and Dutchman Wouter Wippert (Cannondale-Drapac) at the finish of the 156.7-kilometre stage from Qinzhou to Nanning.
“Always fast speed, always the same,” said Gaviria, who now trails season leader Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step) by two wins with 12 overall.
In the final, it was really difficult. Too many [fresh riders]. My team did a really good job — always calm, always all together. In the final, it was really crazy … my team-mates [were] really strong and take me in the front. In final, [I had] good legs and I [started] my sprint really long and final good with one victory more.
For Walscheid, it was a close call after finishing just off the podium a day earlier.
“It’s already two places better than yesterday, but still no victory,” Last year’s five-time Tour of Hainan stage winner told Eurosport. “But I think we can be happy. The team gave all and I gave it all I had. In the end, Gaviria was half a meter in front of me and did a really good sprint and beat me.”
Wippert also saw improvement on the stage after finishing behind Walscheid in fifth on Thursday. He told Eurosport:
I was feeling really fresh on the sprint. I had to brake with 200m to go. The barrier started out of nothing … yeah, not too happy. Yesterday fifth, today third so hopefully that goes on until tomorrow.
Suisse road race champion Silvan Dillier (BMC Racing) was once again on the hunt for points, joining a three-man attack a day after winning all three intermediate sprints in a four-man break.
China’s Meiyin Wang (Bahrain Merida) and Spain’s Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA)) joined the 2018 AG2R La Mondiale signee from the 23km mark, but it was the 27-year-old Giro d’Italia stage winner once again making the most of his opportunities with the intermediate sprint bonuses.
“At first it looked like they didn’t want to let me go,” said Dillier in the post-stage media scrum. “I made a move and was alone for a little bit. Luckily some other guys joined me and we worked well together. It was a nice day in the front and I really enjoyed it.
I really didn’t expect we would make it to the finish. The sprinters’ teams are always well organized. They know exactly how to pace it. If we go faster in front they also speed up, and it’s really hard to crack them. I tried to save more for uphill sprint and luckily I made it.
Despite claiming two more first-place sprint points, Dillier drops the blue points jersey to Gaviria, but do not expect the reigning Route du Sud champion to join a break for the third straight stage on Saturday.
“Tomorrow, I try to recover,” he said. “I don’t think I try to go in breakaway again. Stage 4 has an uphill finish. I will see how long I can hang on with climbers and we will see what [general classification] looks like after that one.”
Gaviria also holds a five-second advantage over Dillier on GC and will wear the red leader’s jersey on Saturday’s third stage — a 125.4km city circuit in Nanning — which is once again ideally suited for the 23-year-old Colombian sprinter.