NANNING, China, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- Belgium's Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) surged to win stage 4 of the inaugural Gree UCI WorldTour Tour of Guangxi on Sunday as he rode away from Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing Team) in the last 400 meters uphill to Nongla to move into the lead with two stages to go.
Stage 4 was tipped to be a crucial for the overall win with the uncertainty over whether or not triple stage winner and race leader Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) would be able to keep some hopes of winning the Gree UCI WorldTour Tour of Guangxi. And the Colombian ace had bad legs from the start and put himself out of contention, leaving the leadership of the Quick Step team fully on the shoulders of Julian Alaphilippe.
After an early attempt involving local star Wang Meiyin of Bahrain-Merida, four riders made a strong move at km 10: Pavel Kotchekov (Katusha-Alpecin), Victor Campenaerts (LottoNL-Jumbo), Lennard Hofstede (Sunweb) and Antonio Molina (Caja Rural-RGA). They got their maximum lead at half way into the 151km long race.
With 10km to go, the time gap was reduced to 30 seconds as the ambitious teams were jostling for positions to put their respective leaders in the best possible place at the bottom of the final climb with 3km to go.
Campenaert forged on by himself and got the price of most active rider of the day but it was all together with 6km remaining. Roche attacked with 2km to go and took the mountain price that awarded him the green jersey at the flamme rouge. Wellens and Mollema went across to the Irishman.
The three men swapped turns until Wellens launched a strong and decisive acceleration 400 meters before the line to take the stage victory and the lead in the overall classification with an advantage of four seconds over Mollema.
"We came here as a team firstly to win a stage and secondly to do as well as we could on GC, so the first goal is reached and I'm in the lead. I prefer to be ahead in the overall ranking now than behind. When Nicolas Roche attacked with 2km to go, I thought it was too soon but nobody reacted, so I did in a steep part of the climb. Towards the finish it was a bit harder again. We swapped turns with Roche and [Bauke] Mollema and at the end I went solo," said Wellens.
"Before today's stage, I said it would be the decisive stage for the overall classification. I hope that I was right. It'll be another hard stage tomorrow but on a flat finish, it's not easy to make up time. We have a good team to defend the jersey," he added.
The longest stage of the Gree UCI WorldTour Tour of Guangxi will take the peloton on Monday from Liuzhou, the native town of China's sports legend Li Ning, to Guilin, the former capital city of Guangxi. It's considered to be the queen stage of the race as it is the longest with a total of 212km, also featuring some interesting hills.