Philippe Gilbert (BMC) has been crowned as the third and final champion of the Tour of Beijing, the Belgian joining two-time winner Tony Martin and Benat Intxausti as the winner of Asia’s only WorldTour event.
Gilbert confirmed his overall victory following today’s 117km race finale in which Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) took out a bunch sprint at the Bird’s Nest Piazza ahead of Greg Henderson (Lotto-Belisol) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky).
Garmin-Sharp’s Tyler Farrar continued his good run in Beijing, finishing fourth to snatch the Points Classification back from Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) who was in sixth place across the line in a dramatic sprint finish to the final stage.
“It was really nice but still stressful for the last lap because with a small gap, small advantage of three seconds, I had to be ready for a gap in the final,” Gilbert explained. “I took the last corner in a really good position and then I saw that it was okay because of the headwind in the last kilometre. I didn’t take any risks and it was okay.”
The 2012 world champion won a shortened second stage to put on the red leader’s jersey and then defended his place at the head of the race despite a strong challenge from Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) on Monday’s Queen stage to Mentougou Miaofeng Mountain.
So the podium for the General Classification remained intact following stage 5, with Gilbert finishing three seconds ahead of Martin with Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) a further six seconds back in third and also winner of the young rider classification.
“Yesterday it was a very big effort for me,” admitted Gilbert. “On the climb of more than 10km normally I would be suffering a lot. I was up there with the best climbers of this peloton so for me it’s a big effort and I was really happy about it.”
“It [The Tour of Beijing] was a great experience and I’m glad that my name will be in this palmares. It was very special to finish here also with those monuments, those roads are very special.”
Without any KOM points on offer Michal Golas’ (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) lead in the climber’s classification went unchallenged. Orica-GreenEdge were winners of the team classification.
Breakaway close to an emotional victory
Starting the day at Tiananmen Square, the peloton got racing underway at a fast, hard pace through the streets of Beijing. Taking close to 25km to establish, Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto – Belisol) and Laurent Mangel (FDJ.fr) got a lead on the bunch just before the race hit the finishing circuits for the first of 12 laps of Olympic Park.
Both riders were motivated, with Van der Sande looking for the first win of his professional career, and Mangel looking to close out his career with victory with the 33-year-old retiring following the race.
With seven laps remaining, the pair built a maximum advantage of 3:15 over the peloton, dropping to 1:10 three laps later.
That lead was then extended to 2:42 with 25km remaining, sparking a furious effort from the bunch to chase the pair down. It went right down to the wire with the gap still at over a minute as the bell lap sounded.
Belkin, Garmin-Sharp, Team Sky and Lampre-Merida pushed the pace, shelling their lead-out trains in the process and with 800metres left to race the escapees were finally caught.
“Normally when there are two guys in the break it’s useless, but when you’re in it you have to try,” explained Van der Sande. “In the beginning we were riding really easy and so was the bunch so they were in control then at four laps to go we went full gas and almost made it.”
“I’m disappointed for sure but that is racing.”
Modolo was in prime position leading into the final straight and once he hit the front he didn’t look as if he was going to be beaten.
It was the Italian’s first win since June at the Tour de Suisse, his eighth for the season and one he was supremely satisfied with.
“I won in Suisse but then I had a bad Tour de France and crashed at the Eneco Tour and struggled,” Modolo admitted. “I’ve been at home training for a month and so to win is hugely satisfying for me and for the team who helped me here.”
“We always thought we’d catch the breakaway,” he continued. “It was close but it’s always difficult for two guys to stay away. We tried to force the other teams to work because the team worked a lot for Rui Costa during the race. I had three guys working for me but they gave me a good lead out.”
Tour of Beijing farewells the WorldTour
Global Cycling Promotion director Alain Rumpf said it was with great sadness that the final day of the fourth and final edition of the Tour of Beijing had arrived.
“It has been an incredible journey since 2011 and together we have all achieved a great amount for cycling in China and for cycling all over the world,” Rumpf said.
“We have seen this again over the past week, this first and only WorldTour event in Asia has now connected with more fans and more knowledgeable local cycling experts keen to meet their heroes. On social media the event has had an unprecedented global reach for this event and the TV coverage has reached every continent.
“I hope it is not an end, but the beginning of bigger and better things for cycling in China.”
Rumpf said the Tour of Beijing would not have been possible without the concerted efforts of many including the local authorities in and around Beijing, including the Beijing Municipal Government and the Beijing Municipal Sports Bureau and their organising teams who worked closely with the intentional team of cycling experts to deliver the event over the past four years.
Rumpf paid tribute to the teams and riders who had participated in the Tour since 2011.
“Together we have seen a lot of progress for the Tour of Beijing since 2011 and it would not have been possible without the efforts of the team staff and riders,” Rumpf said. “Often it has not been easy and it certainly hasn’t been without challenges, but the teams and riders have been superb in how they have adapted to this. Their contribution has been significant and in the years to come, I hope they will be remembered as part of the trail blazing group who rode into a new frontier for the sport.”
Rumpf also emphasised the ground made in the cooperation on stage 2 this year that saw the route shortened due to concerns over the air quality as a particularly important moment for the sport.
“On that day we all showed that by cooperating, organisers, teams and riders could manage difficult situations and have a positive outcome. In many ways, this is what GCP was created to do, and so we achieved an important goal.
At the end of the stage, eventual overall winner Philippe Gilbert also remarked on the way the difficult decision to shorten the stage was determined.
“We spoke together with the organization, UCI, and everyone agreed that we should cancel the last 30km,” he said. “I think it was a good decision. This means a lot, because a lot of times in the past … they didn’t listen to us. And today, we did a big step in our sport, I think.”
Farewell from Beijing!
Results from the 117 km fifth and final stage
of the Tour of Beijing from Tiananmen Square to the Bird’s Nest piazza on
1. Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida/ITA) 2 hours 40 mins 10 secs
2. Gregory Henderson (Lotto-Belisol/NZL) same time
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky/NOR) st
4. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp/USA) st
5. Moreno Hofland (Belkin Pro/NED) st
1. Philippe Gilbert (BMC/BEL) 17 hours 59 mins 56 secs
2. Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp/IRE) + 3 secs
3. Esteban Chaves (Orica GreenEDGE/COL) + 9
4. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida/POR) + 11 secs
5. Sergey Chernetski (Katusha/RUS) + 23
1. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp/USA) 45
2. Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano/SLO) 44
3. Moreno Hofland (Belkin Pro/NED) 33
4. Philippe Gilbert (BMC/BEL) 31
5. Nikolas Maes (Omega Pharma-Quick Step/BEL) 29