Thick fog, nagging rain, splits and a big crash on the longest leg of the race.
The last of the four classified climbs that were sprinkled over the course of the 212.2km-long stage between Liuzhou and Guilin had a bigger impact than expected, with the peloton shattered to pieces and dozens of riders distanced on the hard slopes of the 5km first-category ascent, which signaled also the end of the adventure for the four men that had animated the day since the flag was dropped early in the morning.
Less than 20 riders made the cut in the thick fog and heavy rain that only made things worse in the final hour of racing, but the descent advantaged the chasers, who managed to bridge across inside the final 15 kilometers, as soon as the road flattened out. Everything pointed to a bunch gallop, but despite the wide roads, it wasn't an incident-free one, a crash derailing the sprint inside the final kilometer, where Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) emerged victorious ahead of Pascal Ackermann (Bora-hansgrohe) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo).
Fortunately, none of the Quick-Step Floors riders who were part of the reduced pack were involved in the pile-up and safely concluded this stage, meaning that both Rémi Cavagna and Dries Devenyns retained their position in the general classification top 10, where they sit in fourth and ninth, respectively.
The race – and Quick-Step Floors' season, for that matter – will conclude on Sunday, with a 169km flat stage starting and finishing in Guilin, where neo-pro Fabio Jakobsen, already a stage winner at the Tour of Guangxi, will try to be again in the mix.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images