Tour of Hainan: Marco Zanotti enjoys penultimate stage win to set up gripping finale
Italian sprinter Marco Zanotti sets up showdown for final yellow jersey with Stage 8 victory at the Tour of Hainan.
Monkey Town Continental Team sprinter Marco Zanotti’s Stage 8 victory in Wuzhishan paves the way for an intriguing finale in Wanning, China at the Tour of Hainan (UCI 2.HC) on Sunday.
“Nice day for me and my team and management,” Zanotti immediately told Eurosport. “We are really happy to have this result today.”
The 29-year-old Italian won the 197.4-kilometre climbing stage over nearest rivals Marco Marines (Bardiani-CSF) and Emils Liepins (Delko-Marseille Provence KTM) in a reduced bunch after the field was split on the first of four categorised climbs. A Cat. 1 at the 12km-mark saw six riders ride off, including Zanotti, former WorldTour rider Marc de Maar (Hengxiang), current mountains leader Sam Crome (IsoWhey Sports-SwissWellness), second on GC Benjamin Prades (Team UKYO), Jordan Cheyne (Jelly Belly) and Patrick Schelling (Vorarlberg).
However, Zanotti was soon joined by Dutch teammates Ivar Slik and Maarten de Jonge after a seven rider chase bridged the gap.
“It was amazing what they did to come back, Maarten controlled in the final with Wilier and [Bardiani-CSF], and Ivar did super work to take me out of the crowds … he [took it to] 150 metres in perfect place for the win.”
Schelling was named the day’s ‘most active rider’ as he was the last man remaining from the original break before being joined by Jelly Belly’s Serghei Tvetcov, who bridged from the peloton to Schelling after the final intermediate sprint with 30km to go.
Zanotti’s rise on GC sets a race-deciding final stage, which is a rolling 153.8km day with three low-level category climbs, and should come down to a bunch sprint with the yellow jersey up on the line.
But according to Zanotti, taking the overall win is a long shot.
“Honestly, it’s difficult to win GC now on the last day, because Wilier has a fast man, but of course we are going to try something because it’s a big chance now,” admitted Zanotti.
“[Mareczko] and I are training always together and he is a really nice guy,” he continued. He has a long career in front of himself. It’s nice if sometimes he leaves a little something for us.”
With the jersey on the line, team sports director Paul Tabak told Eurosport Zanotti’s success is attributed directly to his team’s early rally and late-stage strategy.
“Once Ivar and Maarten made it to Zanotti, it was our decision to go for the sprint,” said Tabak. “We put one guy in the front, Maarten, who was working together with Wilier and Ivar is really strong. We knew we needed to keep Marco out of the wind in a good position and take him to the finish line —we knew the wind situation, we knew the corners, we had to keep to the right.
“I told Ivar, show us how good you are and get him to the finish line,” he added. “We are really happy for the result. Marco was nervous today because won the first KOM also, so he was pushing there as well and that killed the whole field I think.”