Courtesy of tourofbeijing.net
Germany’s Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) added some panache to the Tour of Beijing with a solo victory on stage two into Mentougou, in the western hills of Beijing, on Wednesday.
The defending champion, who missed the time trial on the course this year and said his “chances to repeat his victory were tight”, was able to follow the best climbers on the three climbs that featured on the 126 kilometers from the Olympic Park to Mentougou District. He then surprised his rivals on the last downhill stretch to the finish and opened a gap in the last flat 20 kilometers.
Martin takes a significant 50 second lead in the general classification ahead of Italy’s Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) and 52 seconds on Eros Capecchi (Liquigas-Cannondale) who were second and third on the stage.
“If there is no time trial, you have to do your own one!” Martin smiled. “Some guys were expecting a sprint, but my team expected a hard race. The goal was to make a good race and to stay at the front, but I didn’t expect to win. I had a very, very small chance today but I took it and I am very happy and proud of this.”
Breakaways took the first intermediate sprints in the opening part of the stage. Andrey Grivko (Astana) out-sprinted China’s Kun Jiang (Champion System Pro Cycling) on kilometer 22, then Mathias Frank (BMC Racing Team) was first on kilometer 46 ahead of his four escape companions: Maxim Belkov (Katusha Team), Juan Garate (Rabobank), Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Movistar Team) and David Tanner (Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank).
The break went up to three minutes and fifteen seconds on the peloton but Euskaltel-Euskadi started a very high chase before the foot of the tough first climb in Gao Ya Kou, 10.8 kilometers long with an average gradient of 6.4%.
“Euskaltel-Euskadi raced very strong but they seemed to be focused more on Edvald Boasson Hagen“, explained Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Nissan). “So they didn’t catch all the riders in front and left some others attacking.”
The hard first ascent, really worthy of being a medium mountain climb in the Tour de France, was hectic indeed, as several climbers launched an attack. Among them was Ireland’s Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) who was first to the top of both this hill and the following one and so captured the best climber’s jersey.
The front group also included Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and a few team-mates, AG2R-La Mondiale’s Sylvain Georges and Rinaldo Nocentini, Rui Costa (Movistar Team), Tom Jelte Slagter (Rabobank), and two riders from the earlier break, Tanner and Frank.
The race’s turning point happened in the last 5-kilometer ascent to Dong Fang Hong, when Slagter accelerated before the summit, followed by Tony Martin. Germany’s rouleur then attacked at the beginning of the twisty downhill, with 25 kilometers remaining to the finish.
Nocentini said the other riders lost time before chasing Martin: “A rider from Rabobank didn’t close the gap when Martin left. We didn’t react quickly enough and some riders didn’t help, saying they had no interest in general classification. That’s a pity: we could have done much better and even if we didn’t catch Martin, we could have taken more time on the groups behind us.”
With five kilometers to go Martin had an advantage of 30 seconds that he increased by ten seconds despite a strong headwind. He even had time to zip up his jersey before crossing the line and wave to the TV cameras.
Former GC leader Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) lost 13’13″. “The first climb was very hard and I lost time, even if my team-mates did their best to support me,” said the Italian sprinter, who is still targeting another stage victory.
For his part Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) lost 15’41″.
Stage three on Thursday will finish at the bottom of the Great Wall and is ranked as this year’s queen stage. With 162.5km between Mentougou and Badaling, the course includes four hills. The main one will be the category 1 climb in Gao Ya Kou where the riders already passed over Tuesday, but the top is 94km from the finish.
The summit finish, a one-kilometer ascent with an average gradient of 6.3% will be more decisive. It suits puncheurs like Dan Martin or strong men like Boasson Hagen and thus Tony Martin.
The “Great Wall stage” will not only visit the most famous parts of that World Wonder but also explore the Yan Qing County, an ecological conservation zone which is to many the backyard garden of Beijing City.
“I think this stage suits me pretty well as I really feel good,” Martin says. “Today I could stay with the best riders even in the first climb which was 10 kilometers long and very hard. I think I can do pretty much the same tomorrow.”
Poland’s Rafal Majka, the leader of the best young rider classification and the Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank’s leader, also believes Martin can keep the lead after that queen stage.
“Riders like me will do our best to win but obviously Martin can hold on in the mountains after the show of strength he did today.”
“Tony’s overall victory would be great for us,” confided Omega Pharma-QuickStep team manager Patrick Lefévère.
“The Tour of Beijing is important for us as part of the UCI WorldTour and part of cycling globalization. I have always supported cycling’s development across the world whether it was by going to Canada in 1989 with the Domex-Weinmann team or to China in 1996 with Mapei.”