Simone Ponzi finished just outside the podium in the penultimate stage of Tour of Hainan, while Adrian Kurek made it into the breakaway of the day for the second consecutive time.
Stage 8 was one of the two stages, which was anticipated to not end with a bunch sprint finish. The 165-kilometer, undulating course and four categorized climbs in the last 70 kilometers of racing, were going to shatter the field.
Adrian Kurek had marked this day in his calendar, as a day in which the breakaway could be successful. It took over 50 kilometers the form the escape, but when it was finally established, Kurek was in it. He went away with Nico Brüngger (Team Roth), Mirko Tedeschi (Wilier – Southeast), Sofiane Merignat (Delko Marseille Provence KTM), Bernard Sulzberger (Drapac Professional Cycling), Ying Hon Yeung (Wisdom – Hengxiang Cycling Team), Serhiy Grechyn (Jilun Shakeland Cycling Team), Ilya Davidenok (RTS – Monton Racing) and Adriy Vasylyuk (Kolss BDC Team). They gained 4 minutes on the peloton.
The breakaway was splitting apart in the hilly terrain and eventually, with 25km to go, Adrian Kurek got dropped, leaving Brüngger, Sulzberger, Meiyin and Davidenok in the lead. At that point the bunch was less than one minute away and the escapees’ chances to survive were slim. The last man standing was Brüngger, who got reeled in with around 16km to go.
On the last climb of the day big guns started to fire up. Race leader, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Przemysław Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) and four other riders manager to create the gap, but the chasing group, including Simone Ponzi and Branislau Samoilau, brought them back in with 5km to go.
The stage was decided in an uphill sprint. Fast Ponzi, who likes such finales, was well positioned and came in 4th at the line. Despite attacking late in the race, Lutsenko still had enough power in his legs to defeat his rivals and keep the yellow jersey. He got the win, ahead of Rafael Andriato (Wilier – Southeast) and Andrea Pasqualon (Team Roth).
Branislau Samoilau finished in 18th and sits in 15th place overall. Tomorrow is the last day of the race and the bunch gallop is the most likely scenario.