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WUZHISHAN, China (VN) — Gino Mäder is polishing off his amateur career in China at the Tour of Hainan before joining Team Dimension Data.
The Swiss cyclist won the important Wuzhishan stage Sunday and positioned himself for the overall win in three days. That stage win added to his 2018 results sheet that also includes two wins, a third-place finish in the Tour de L’Avenir, and a fourth in the under-23 world championship.
“I’ve had a really great season this year,” Mäder told VeloNews. “Two stage wins in L’Avenir and a podium finish there is really nice, which also permitted me to pass professional, which was the biggest goal for his year. I’m happy.”
He had been in contact with Teams FDJ and CCC, but Dimension Data announced it reached a deal with him for 2019. Afterward at the UCI road worlds, he raced the U23 road race and finished fourth while helping his Swiss teammate Marc Hirschi win.
He will be able to park his Bianchi Specialissima bike that he bought with his own money for the 1kg weight savings. The South African team will ride BMC bikes in 2019. Mäder lives near the Swiss manufacturer’s headquarters and the Grenchen velodrome.
“They can give me the best atmosphere and program to develop. They understand I’m a young rider who needs time to progress and structure to be in to learn how to be professional. I feel really welcome there and it’s the best choice I can make,” he continued.
“We’ll have a big spectrum of riders for all kinds of terrain. Older riders who are at the end of their career but also young riders who are fresh and motivated to race. It’s a good mix.”
Mäder, 21, won the sixth stage in Hainan by climbing with the best over the final pass and attacking the remaining riders on a small kick with about 2km remaining.
He weighs 132 pounds and stands 6-foot-2. He time trials and climbs well, but needs to fully develop to understand his path in the sport.
“I have to see how I develop over the off-season, if I get some muscles or not. I’m skinny. If I develop some muscles, maybe I can be a rider for the GC or a small tour. Like one week races. Or be a stage hunter,” he said.
“If you ask a young rider like me, it’s always the Tour de France. It’s a dream, but it’s a dream, there’s a difference between that and a plan. Maybe winning a stage there and trying to do well in the overall classification, but that’s so far away.
“I need to develop as a rider and take some smaller victories maybe like here in Hainan. Otherwise, just being there for my teammates.”
Mäder sits just seven seconds behind in second place, behind Tour of Hainan leader Raymond Kreder. The summit finish in stage 8 should decide the race. Stage 9 finishes on flat roads and closes out the tour.
Mäder is racing for the Swiss national team at the Chinese race, going up against experienced pros from strong teams such as Androni, Bardiani and Wilier. Overall win or not, he is enjoying the experience on the resort island off the country’s southeast coast.
“Absolutely. I saw some videos yesterday from home, it’s 2 degrees Celsius, snow, it’s really different. It’s sunny [in China], people are friendly, the food is really good,” Mäder said.
“Can I win the overall? ‘Yes’ would be an arrogant answer, but I felt good yesterday. I hope to do a top 10 in the GC. If I can still be up there, I won’t be disappointed.”