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Elia Viviani (Ineos-Grenadiers) claimed victory in the sprint on the opening stage of the six day Tour of Guangxi, chasing down the early launching Jonathan Milan (Bahrain-Victorious) on the wide open roads of the finishing straight in Baihai.
Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) jumped at the last moment on the left hand side of the road, to pip Arnaud De Lie (Lotto-Dstny) for the final podium place in stage 1 of the WorldTour race in China, which was returning from a four year hiatus.
The flat 135.6km stage took a predictable path, with the early break hauled in at 15km to go and then it was all about setting the scene for the sprinters. The speeds began to ramp up at 5km to go, and with so much road to play with it was hard for riders to know whether to follow the riders pushing the pace on the left or right.
After the final corner Milan launched on the right, but a wall of riders spread across the road were closing in, with Viviani popping his nose out into the wind from behind Milan’s wheel at just the right time to claim his first WorldTour win in four years.
How it Unfolded
The typhoon that swept across the Gulf of Tonkin in recent days had mercifully subsided by Thursday morning, with the Tour of Guangxi peloton waking to blue skies and pleasant sunshine for the opening day of the race in the port city of Beihai.
The opening stage was always liable to end in a sprint, but one of the day’s contenders was ruled out before the race got underway. Sam Welsford, like his DSM teammate Andreas Leknessund, was a non-starter due to illness.
Another fast man, Gerben Thijssen, was withdrawn from the event on the eve of the race together with his Intermarché-Circus-Wanty teammate Madis Mihkels for their part in a lamentable act of racism shortly after arriving in China.
Despite those absences, there was still…