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Tour of Hainan: Stępniak near the podium on Stage 5

Grzegorz Stępniak claimed the highest place so far in this year’s Tour of Hainan for CCC Sprandi Polkowice, by nearly making the podium on Stage 5. Unfortunately the race had also a dark side for the “orange squad”, since four riders were involved in a late crash. 

191-kilometer stage from Chengmai to Qiongzhong kicked off with a series of attacks. One of those moves included Josef Cerny, who pulled away with Vitaliy Buts (Ukraina). They were soon reeled in though. The day’s main breakaway was established after as many as 46 kilometers of racing. Taras Voropayev (Vino 4ever), Yusup Abrekov (Beijing Innova Cycling Team) and Buts. managed to get in the escape.

They were steadily building an advantage and with 105 kilometers into the stage it was at 3:30. After that, the leading group began to split and Voropayev was the only one, who stayed in the lead. Eventually he was also caught, and with 38 kilometers remaining the race started all over.

Alessandro Malaguti (Nippo – Vini Fantini) tried a solo action and was chased by Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Astana), Szymon Rekita (Trek Factory Racing) and Soufiane Haddi (Skydive Dubai Pro Cycling Team – Al Ahli Club), They couldn’t hold off the bunch and the race came back together with 6 kilometers to go. Again it was the sprinters who were going for the victory.

The sprint was interrupted by a late crash. Josef Cerny, Adrian Honkisz, Jarosław Marycz and Łukasz Owsian were among those who went down. Fortunately they didn’t suffer serious injuries (aside from cuts and bruises) and completed the stage on their own. Grzegorz Stępniak managed to avoid the accident and was able to take 4th at the line.

He was outsprinted only by Benjamin Giraud (Team Marseille 13 KTM). Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) and Andrea Palini (Skydive Dubai Pro Cycling Team – Al Ahli Club). The former two have both won two stage in this year’s edition.

It was a very fast stage and I was not feeling very well throughout the entire day. In the end I finally found good legs and I could fight for the top spots. With 4 kilometers to go I had a mechanical, but thanks to Josef Cerny’s help I was able to quickly return to the peloton. I gained a lot of momentum when I was chasing the group and it helped me move up front. With 2 kilometers remaining I was already in 10th position. I started the sprint as 4th, 200 meters from the finish, and I crossed the line also 4th. Today it was impossible for me to overtake the top 3 – Grzegorz Stępniak said afterwards.