Wilier Triestina sprinter Jakub Mareczko is proving to be a full bike-length better than the field after easily disposing of his rivals on a hectic finish on Stage 4 of the Tour of Hainan in Danzhou, China on Tuesday.
After two sustained breaks were successfully reeled in by the peloton under full control of Wilier, the 23-year-old Polish-born Italian crossed the line first for a third straight time after lead-out Eugert Zhupa piloted him to the front of a frenzied bunch to start his sprint with less than 200 metres to go.
Mareczko clinches hat-trick on Tour of Hainan Stage 4
Tour of Hainan
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“My team-mates were fantastic, Zhupa did a great job in the final kilometres and put me in front about 500m and did a great job,” Mareczko told Eurosport.
My mates work all day to close the breakaway in front. It was another great day for us.
For Australian UCI-registered Continental team IsoWhey Sports-SwissWellness, it was a second straight third-place finish on the podium from native rider Anthony Giacoppo, but the team sports director says they came to China with loftier goals.
“First, I’m very happy to be on the podium for a third time in four days,” Christie-Johnston told Eurosport. “We’re getting close, but we just aren’t quite getting it right. When we nail the lead-out, I’m sure we will be on the top step.”
According to the team co-founder, the absence of critical lead-out cog Australian Neil van der Ploeg, who crashed out on the opening stage, is a major factor in the team’s lack of success in trying to knock Mareczko off the top of the podium.
Mareczko sprints to second straight win in Tour of Hainan
“We lost a main part of our lead-out train in Neil, and we are down to six,” he explained. “In these lead-out trains every man counts. I think if we had him it would make it a lot easier, but that said we just aren’t getting that final quite right.
"AG came close and he was coming home late, but Mareczko and his lead-out train were perfect today. Credit to them, they have the lead-out and the fastest man, so they are hard to beat.”
Despite admitting Mareczko is a step ahead, Christie-Johnston is not about to throw in the towel and concede the remaining five stages.
“We’re never satisfied until we are standing on the top step,” he said.
That’s why we are here. We are a development team and we pride ourselves on getting things right and until we nail the lead-out we won’t be happy, so we’ll keep chipping away and trying to improve it.
With his third straight stage win, the two-time Tour of Taihu Lake race winner is now just two stages removed from tying Max Walscheid (Team Sunweb), who sprinted to five stage wins last year. But Mareczko is not looking too far down the road in terms of matching the German sprinter, whose team opted not to return in 2017.
“All my team are very tired, because it is the finish of the season for us,” said the race leader after a gruelling 192.3-kilometre day in the saddle. “There is another long stage here and some difficult so we don’t know what happens in the next days."
Mareczko, who is also the points leader, takes a 20-second lead over Estonian Martin Laas (Delko-Marseille Provence KTM), who finished second on the day, and 21 ahead of Stage 1 winner Jon Aberasturi (Team UKYO) of Spain heading into Wednesday’s fifth stage (of nine) — a 167.5km day once again favouring the sprinters with three intermediate sprints and one categorised climb (Cat. 4).
For full stage and race results click here.
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