The WorldTour season ended with a familiar sight, as Jumbo-Visma completed a double triumph on the final day of the Tour of Guangxi. Olav Kooij produced a late, late surge to win stage 6 in Guilin, while Milan Vader finished safely in the peloton to secure final overall victory.
Jumbo-Visma already completed a historic feat this year by winning all three Grand Tours with three different riders, completing the procession by sweeping the podium at the Vuelta a España. Their display at this Tour of Guangxi, meanwhile, was a reminder that their dominance is not limited to their established leaders.
Kooij only turned 22 on Tuesday, and he marked the occasion with his second stage win of the Tour of Guangxi and his 13th of the season, beating Juan Sebastián Molano (UAE Team Emirates) and Ethan Hayter (Ineos) to the line.
Hayter had led Elia Viviani into the final corner, but the Italian cannily left a gap for his teammate to exploit in a bid to secure stage victory. For a moment, it looked as though the fast-finishing Hayter would pull off the perfect heist, but he was overhauled in the closing metres by Kooij and Molano. The Briton had the consolation of picking a time bonus that saw him leapfrog Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) and move into third place overall at the last.
“We only came to China with five riders, but it’s been a great week,” said Kooij. “We had a rider less than most teams, so we had two riders pulling in the bunch to chase the break and one to help Milan. We had a really nice week, and the results come when you’re having fun.”
Vader, so impressive in victory in the hilltop finale at Nongla on Sunday, secured the first stage race victory of his career, six seconds ahead of Rémy Rochas (Cofidis) and 11 up on Hayter, with Carthy dropping to fourth at 14 seconds.
From a mountain bike background, Vader turned professional on the road last year with Jumbo-Visma but missed much of his debut season after a severe crash at Iztulia Basque Country that left him in an induced coma and with eleven fractures to his spine.
Vader continued to ride mountain bike events until the end of this summer in the hope of securing a place at the Paris Olympics, but his focus will be wholly on the road in 2024. Tour of Guangxi victory hinted at his potential.
“We’ve won three stages and the overall, I’m very proud of the team,” said Vader. “We were super motivated and focused from the first day. My teammates kept me safe and now I’m happy we can celebrate together.”
How it unfolded
At this point, it wouldn’t feel like a stage of the Tour of Guangxi at all if Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Deceuninck) wasn’t in the break and, sure enough, the indefatigable Belgian was aboard the early move in the company of Jens Keukeleire (EF Education-EasyPost), Oscar Onley (Team dsm-firmenich) and Jens Reynders (Israel Premier Tech).
The quartet quickly struck up a working alliance, building an advantage of 2:20 by the first intermediate sprint, enough to put De Bondt back into the virtual race lead.
Jumbo-Visma were reluctant to let the buffer grow any further, and their efforts helped reduce the gap to a little over a minute. That reduction in turn encouraged Rune Herregodts (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) to join the attacking, with the Belgian bridging up to the break after 76km.
Despite the additional firepower, the break was unable to extend its lead much further, with the bunch keeping the attackers on a tighter leash than they had on stage 5, when De Bondt et al had briefly threatened to upset the script altogether.
This time out, De Bondt was the first of the escapees to drop back to the peloton on the category 1 ascent of Yanshan Hill with a shade over 40km remaining. Herregodts and Reynders were the last men standing from the move, but they, too, were swept up before the summit, where Juri Hollmann (Movistar) led the bunch beneath the king of the mountains banner.
Movistar continued their forcing on the descent, with Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma among the squads joining the coalition of sprinters’ teams at the front on the fast run-in to Guilin, where another bunch finish appeared inevitable.
Still the break attempts did continue, with splits after the final intermediate sprint at 18km to go and Julius Johansen (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) managing to lever out a small gap, flying solo out the front until just inside the final 10km.
A sprint finish, however, was inevitable. Jumbo-Visma lined out the peloton and the other sprint trains formed.
Viviani and Hayter tried their trick after the final corner and secured third overall, but just like so often in 2023, Jumbo-Visma emerged as the winners, on the final WorldTour race of the season.
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