Tony Martin remains emperor of Beijing

Date: 14th October 2012

Photo Credit: Graham Watson

Germany’s Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) held his crown in the Tour of Beijing by repeating last year’s overall success on Saturday after stage five from Changping Stadium to Pinggu.

Martin prevailed to win the overall title, despite a strong charge on the final day from Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) who made an attempt to claim both the stage and the overall win, only to be denied both, with Steven Cummings (BMC Racing Team) out-sprinted his escape companion to take the final stage win.

On the final podium Martin was 40 seconds ahead of Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) and 46 seconds in advance of Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky).

“I am super happy — over the moon,” the winner said. “It’s a really special win for me because I think there was a little bit of pressure on me but I think a lot of people were expecting for me to win again, but there was no time trial. I’m really proud of myself and of my team-mates which did a great job with week.”

In keeping with the fierce racing which has taken place since the start on Tuesday, the final stage was anything but an easy parade for the podium contenders over the undulating 182.5 kilometre route in the north of Beijing.

Four riders tried their luck straightaway following the start but the peloton didn’t let Rabobank’s Theo Bos and Marteen Wynants, Kenny De Haes (Lotto-Belisol) and Kenny Van Hummel (Vacansoleil-DCM) go clear.

At the first intermediate sprint, on kilometre 40.5, Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), third in GC, saw his team-mate Heinrich Haussler dominate Boasson Hagen, ranked forth, but the Norwegian took three seconds of time bonus.

“It was pretty clear Boasson Hagen was going to be third place thanks to the time bonuses, so I focused on the polka-dot jersey’s retain,” Martin said.

The Irishman controlled Pim Ligthart (Vacansoleil-DCM) at the first two climbs in Hei Shan Zhai and Tuo Ling Tunnel.

A breakaway with twelve riders started after the feeding zone on kilometre 87.5. Katusha put two on board (Mikhail Ignatyev and Alexey Tsatevich), as well as Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank (Manuele Boaro, David Tanner). The other men in front were Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Nissan), Grega Bole (Lampre-ISD), Steven Cummings (BMC Racing Team), Kenny Dehaes (Lotto Belisol), Enrique Sanz (Movistar), Jussi Veikkanen (FDJ-Big Mat), Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Maarten Wynants (Rabobank).

They gained up to 1’35″ on the peloton led by Omega Pharma-Quick Step.

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) bridged up to the leading group in the penultimate climb, in Tai Hou Village, about kilometer 130.

At the top of the following hill of Si Zuo Lou, twenty kilometres later, Hesjedal accelerated and was followed by Cummings. Both men did a powerful and impressive descent while the riders formerly with them in front were caught by the peloton.

Hesjedal “was 100% focused on the general classification.” The 2012 Giro d’Italia winner explained: “I believed it was possible to win until we crossed the first line. We had very little information about the gap, and given we had 35 seconds at the top of the last climb and a few seconds of time bonus to take on the finish line, I thought I was going for final victory.”

The peloton didn’t chase flat out though, as the best young rider, Rafal Majka (Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) noted: “When the gap went down to 15 seconds, a victory of the two riders in front wasn’t going to change anything for most of us in the general classification, and the teams were tired and not that strong after that long stage.”

No other team than Omega Pharma-Quick Step was leading the odd-40 bunch but Hesjedal and Cummings didn’t hesitate until the last sprint. The first one was still hoping to capture the general classification, the second one the stage victory.

The British rider was the fastest and took in Beijing one of the two most important successes in his career after the stage in the 2012 Vuelta a Espana.

“I am happy after such a long day,” Cummings said. “You have to try in the breakaway. It was a big breakaway, so it was difficult for the peloton to chase behind, so long as we kept the pressure on in front. When we were together, we did a good job together.”

Seventeen seconds after the breakaway, Boasson Hagen sprinted for third place ahead of Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan).

After final stage, Dan Martin captured the mountain classification, Boasson Hagen the points, Rafal Majka the best young, while Liquigas-Cannondale was best team.

“This is a nice prize for us, with a young team, on a UCI WorldTour race and also as a farewell gift for our sponsor Liquigas who ends its sponsorship with our team,” directeur sportif Stefano Zanatta said.

Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) pulled out in the beginning of the first climb, about kilometre 20. Luxemburg’s star is still recovering from a hip injury he sustained in June. The Tour of Beijing was nearly his come back to competition after Binche-Tournai-Binche.

“We are building up the 2013 season and Andy had a good training in China so far, so we decided it was more reasonable not to insist,” his directeur sportif Jose Azevedo said.

Also injured several times this season, in a training accident in April and then in the Tour de France, Martin positively wrapped-up in China. The overall victory in the Tour of Beijing is his seventh this year, including the team and individual time trials on the UCI World Championships.

Also a silver medal against the clock in the London Olympics, Martin, 27, was sceptical on his abilities to succeed in Beijing this year because of the withdrawal of the opening time trial.

The race was played on Wednesday, when Tony Martin surprised his escape companion in the final descent to Mentougou and took 56 seconds through a nearly 25 kilometre individual time trial.

Gavazzi, who went second that day, closed the gap in GC by ten seconds on Thursday as he notched up the queen stage at the foot of the Great Wall. Boasson Hagen had tried his chance just before and threatened Martin, but the German himself chased in front of the peloton, showing his solid “patron” status on the race. The Norwegian never found a breach to dislodge Martin, whether through the intermediate sprints or vicious attacks in the finales.

Boasson Hagen said he expected to win the race but has no regrets. “I did my best and I am pretty happy with my week in China.”

The Tour of Beijing provided an intense and spectacular show also because of the battle for the UCI WorldTour points that rages between Euskaltel-Euskadi, AG2R-La Mondiale and FDJ-BigMat. The Basques did impress on Wednesday’s hills with their climbers and leader Samuel Sanchez but burned out before they could take some substantial results. Both French teams preferred to send their riders into breakaways, while Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R-La Mondiale) went sixth overall.