Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) has blasted to victory on stage two of the 2013 Tour of Beijing.
The flying Frenchman was too fast for Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) and Mitch Docker (Orica GreenEdge) in the sprint in Yanqing.
The win on Saturday gives the 23-year-old both his 10th victory of the season and the overall lead in the final UCI WorldTour event of the year. Stage one winner Thor Hushovd (BMC) finished safely in the bunch in 27th place behind Bouhanni, with the pair on equal time on general classification.
“It was difficult but I had a good team around me to help me get back after each climb and Dominque Rollin was very helpful in the final,” said Bouhanni, who does not expect to hold on to the overall with more climbing on the agenda tomorrow.
“The victory at Paris-Nice was certainly a big victory, I got the yellow jersey but this one is a good victory,” he continued. “Any victory is good to take.”
The longest stage of the Tour, it was an aggressive start to the 201.5km day in Huairou Studio City, with plenty of attacks animating the opening 500 metres of racing once the flag dropped.
Former third overall in the Giro d’Italia, Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) was the first man in clear air off the front, and was soon joined by Massimo Graziato (Lampre-Merida), Chad Beyer (Champion System), Olivier Kaisen (Lotto Belisol) and Maxime Bouet (AG2R-La Mondiale).
With no chase from the peloton, the quintet was free to set the benchmarks for the stage, the bunch seemingly content to let the group ride until the lumpy terrain evened out with just under 50km remaining.
In the shadows of The Great Wall of China, which punctuated the early kilometres of racing with its majesty along the granite peaks on Beijing’s outskirts, the peloton allowed the escape group to build a lead of just under five minutes with two KOMs in the first 30km.
De Gendt’s climbing prowess, so disappointingly missing this season, was on show on Saturday, with the Belgian pushed all the way by the American Beyer. De Gendt took maximum points on the first two climbs. With Vacansoleil-DCM closing operations following the Tour of Beijing, the Dutch team is on a mission this week. On yesterday’s opening stage, it was Willem Wauters in the break, today it was De Gent’s turn.
“It’s been a tough year for us and now it’s our last stage race so we want to give it our best and hopefully we can still win a stage or keep a jersey,” he explained at the finish.
“From the beginning I knew it was very hard to beat the sprinter’s team so my main objective was to get the mountains jersey.”
De Gendt and Beyer worked well together, the pair coming to an arrangement on the road whereby the latter was allowed to take an extra second when it came to the third and final sprint of the day.
“He asked me if he could have the one second at the intermediate sprint and I said no problems, he gave me the points on the last climb so we still like each other,” De Gendt explained with a smile.
With the gap down to 2:30 following the last climb of the day, and the pressure from the BMC-led peloton slowly building, cracks began to appear in the breakaway with the KOM jersey safely in De Gendt’s hands. Kaisen and Bouet opening a gap of just over a minute on their companions. Graziato was dropped altogether, with several members of the team struggling in the cars, and day one escapee Davide Vigano forced to abandon.
The break’s day was finally brought to an end with 191kms of racing complete, leaving the sprinter’s teams to fight it out for the victory. Argos-Shimano led the charge for the line with two kilometres to go, while Omega Pharma – Quick-Step had set up camp on the other side of the road. While the two European-based squads looked at each other, it was the Australian champion, Luke Durbridge who shot through the centre of the bunch for Orica GreenEdge to begin their lead-out. Cameron Meyer was then on his own with no teammate able to follow his wheel, FDJ hit the front with Ferrari unable to come around the wheel of Bouhanni.
Stage Three – Yanqing – Qianjiadian Chio Yang Temple
The 2013 Tour of Beijing continues Sunday with the 176km third stage the first true test of the event with the Si Hai climb, the first of three Cat. 1’s in the race and one of seven climbs tomorrow, set to put some real pressure on the overall contenders. At 7.4km in length and 5.1% gradient, it’s not super-long but the first significant time gaps should appear. The race will also pass through The Great Wall at the start of the Si Hai climb.
Results from the second stage of the Tour of
Beijing on Saturday:
1. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA/FDJ)
2. Roberto Ferrari (ITA/LAM)
3. Mitchell Docker (AUS/OGE)
4. Matti Breschel (DEN/TST)
5. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA/OPQ)
Overall classification after stage two
1. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA/FDJ)
2. Thor Hushovd (NOR/BMC)
3. Maxime Bouet (FRA/ALM)
4. Willem Wauters (GER/VCD)
5. Luka Mezgec (SLO/ARG)