FRENCH sprint sensation Damian Nazon of the Castorama team edged out 69 other riders in a blanket finish to win the second stage of the Kent Tour of China in Shenzhen yesterday.
It was the 21-year-old Frenchman's first stage win of his career but he had to survive a protest by third-placed Robbie Ventura before the result became official.
Ventura of the US Pro team had thought Uzbekistan rider Djamolidine Abdoujaparov of Novell crossed the finish line first before lodging his protest.
Judges reviewed a videotape of the tight finish before determining that Nazon had crossed the line first with Abdoujarapov second and Ventura third.
Seventy of the 104 riders who started the short 33.9-mile flat race from Shenzhen to Mission Hills Golf Club clocked an identical one hour, 18 minutes and 22 seconds.
The top five riders benefitted most from the finish as Nazon was given a 10-second bonus, Abdoujaparov six seconds and Ventura four seconds.
Hong Kong's Wong Kam-po and Hui Chak-bor were among the riders who shared the winner's time.
Hui, whose victories on the domestic scene included overall victory in the now-defunct Marlboro Super Series, finished 59th while Wong was six places behind him in 65th place.
Hong Kong coach Shen Jinkang said that as the course was flat, it gave little opportunity for riders to launch an attack.
'That was why most of the field was not split up. It was so close because it was a short, flat race. Things will be different tomorrow when they contest a 145-kilometre road race,' Shen said.
Hong Kong champion Wong enjoyed his first official stage of the 500-kilometre tour.
He said: 'It was an easy ride and there was not much attacking because it was a flat stage. The American teams did a good job blocking the Europeans and making it a bit easier for us. I expect a much harder race tomorrow when the riders are expected to go a little harder.' American Steve Hegg, winner of Thursday's prologue around Sha Tin, retained his lead in the official general classification list despite finishing well down the order yesterday.
He has a three-second lead from Daniele Nardello of the Mapei-GB team and seven seconds from Norm Alvis of Saturn.
Top riders from around the world are competing in the inaugural tour which has a total cash prize purse of US$200,000.