“First time to be here and very happy to hold this jersey in the beautiful country and beautiful race,” said Aguirre, who becomes the fourth stage winner and race leader in as many days. “The second ‘king of the mountain’ was the hardest part of the race. “Thanks to my teammate to help me get the jersey.” A visibly exhausted Koshevoy spoke to Eurosport after the stage about his performance and any ambitions to contend in a race he so heavily prepared for in the lead up.
“I wasn’t able to follow the top guys on the first climb, maybe because of yesterday’s crash,” said Koshevoy, who surrendered the polka-dot mountain jersey to Aguirre after finishing 10th at 2:19 off the winning time. “Really tough stage. Short, but really intense. It is pretty hot and hard and I suffered a little bit from the start.
“You never know,” he continued referring to a possible podium still to come. “But the winner of today’s stage is really impressive.”
While a small group of chasers tried to follow the Manzana duo, only Rogina was able to bridge the gap and challenge for the victory and keep himself within race contention with two climbing stages remaining in the predominantly sprint-heavy 13-stage UCI 2.HC Asia Tour road race.
“I have some luck today,” said the 39-year-old Rogina. “I was close to the first two on the first mountain and then downhill I caught them. Then we got to the second climb, but first rider was stronger. In the end, I couldn’t give more than third place.
“For now, I’m satisfied. It’s the fourth stage and it’s a long race.”
With Manzana’s Ricardo Vilela of Portugal in fourth place at 2 minutes 29 seconds adrift, along with Italian Antonio Santoro (Monkey Town Continental Team), Ukrainian Oleksandr Polivoda (Ningxia Sports Lottery-Livall), Venezuelan and last year’s race winner Yonathan Monsalve (Qinghai Tianyoude) and Koshevoy, Rogina sits in third at nine seconds off the leader and two off Aguirre’s teammate in second.
“The winner today is very strong on the climb. I don’t think I can beat him,” admitted Rogina. “But there are flat stages and there might be surprises.
“We are fighting until the end,” he concluded. “The race is long and we hope for the best.”
The race continues on Thursday with the third of four straight mountain stages — and second longest (235km) of the race.