The Champion System Pro Cycling Team took control of the peloton Thursday to protect Anuar Manan’s 11th place on the general classification during Stage 6 of the Tour of Hainan.
“Our plan was to cover the early break and position the team for an aggressive ascent of the three climbs,” Champion System General Manager Ed Beamon said of the 171.9-kilometer stage from Danzhour to Dongfang. ”We were hoping for a selection that would put the sprinters out of the race.”
But after the second categorized climb, five riders escaped and gained five minutes on the peloton. With Manan sitting only 26 seconds off the race lead and concerned the team’s general classification prospects were deteriorating, Beamon told the Champion System team to take control.
“With about 60 km to go, I got with Craig (Lewis) and told him to put everyone but Anuar on the front and go full gas,” he said. “We had to take the lead because the sprinter's teams were a bit frustrated and it was a big gap.”
The Champion System riders responded and with the help of the La Pomme Marseille team, the time gap between the escapees and the peloton was held in check. The five-man breakaway survived to the finish where King Lok Cheung (Hong Kong) won the stage, 16 seconds ahead of the peloton, which included Manan.
“The guys were awesome,” Beamon said. “The speed was wicked. We came up a little short but got it to well under a minute at the line.”
Friday's 215.7-km stage features two categorized climbs and three intermediate sprints and is considered the race’s queen stage. Beamon said Manan is still a threat to overall leader Alexander Serebryakov (Team Type 1-Sanofi) despite the loss of teammate Muhama Othman, who did not finish Thursday's race.
“I think we at least kept ourselves in a position to ride for GC tomorrow,” he said.