The 2013 WorldTour calendar draws to a conclusion with the third running of the Tour of Beijing – also known as the Tony Martin Invitational. It’s one final chance for teams and riders to scoop up valuable points before unclipping their shoes for the off-season.
What kind of race is it?
This is a five-day race run in and around China’s capital city. The inaugural edition in 2011 was an eclectic mix of tourist landmarks, too many featureless highway sprints and an opening time trial which ultimately determined the GC. However, the race is evolving into a more varied challenge along the lines of other short stage races: a little bit of sprinting, some rolling stages and one climbers’ test to sort the men from the boys.
Tony Martin has won both races to date, with HTC-Highroad in 2011 and then Omega Pharma-Quick Step last year. Indeed he has worn the leader’s jersey on all but one stage across the two previous editions. (Elia Viviani led after the opening stage last year.)
What happened last year?
Tony Martin clinched overall victory for the second year in succession by holding off the entire peloton with a 26km solo attack at the end of stage two, establishing a cushion which was more than sufficient to defend his crown.
Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) had taken the opening sprinters’ stage before Martin struck. Stage three finished with a punchy climb in the shadow of the Great Wall at Badaling, with Astana’s Francesco Gavazzi overhauling Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) and Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) in the final 25 metres to win.
After Katusha’s Marco Haller took his first pro win in the following day’s sprint, the closing stage saw Steve Cummings (BMC) defeat Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) in a two-up sprint after the pair had shaken off the rest of the day’s breakaway. Tony Martin remained undisturbed, cruising to overall victory by 40 seconds over Gavazzi, with Boasson Hagen third.
The strength of the field was apparent from the final general classification, which included both this year’s individual world champions (Martin and Rui Costa), as well as Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Dan Martin and Rafal Majka, who followed up his seventh place at the Giro with third at Il Lombardia last Sunday.
1. Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) 17:16:56
2. Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) +0:40
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +0:46
4. Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) +0:50
5. Eros Capecchi (Liquigas-Cannondale) +0:52
6. Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) +0:56
7. Tomasz Marczynski (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t
8. Rafal Majka (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) s/t
9. Rui Costa (Movistar) +1:00
10. Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol) s/t
Our 2012 race review can be found here.
This year’s race
The 2013 edition is the most challenging in the race’s short history, with all but the final stage taking place in the hills and mountains to the north of the capital city.
Only the opening and closing stages – the latter run on circuits around the striking Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium – are definite bunch sprints. There will be plenty of climbing to challenge the riders in the intervening stages, including a difficult mountain-top finish on the penultimate day.
Between stages two and four the racing becomes steadily more intense. Stage two features four climbs, each of around 4-5km and averaging 5-6%, although a flat final 50km should allow the sprinters’ teams to bring everything back together for a mass sprint.
The third stage is set up for a classics specialist or possibly a breakaway. There are seven categorised climbs including a cat 1 just past halfway which should split the peloton permanently. The final summit is just 11km from the finish, which should provide the springboard for a decisive, selective attack.
The GC battle will come to a head on stage four, which features two tough climbs mid-stage ahead of a summit finish at Mentougou that weighs in at 12.6km and 5.7%.
Who to watch
All five stage winners from last year – Viviani, Martin, Gavazzi, Haller and Cummings – return to Beijing for a 2013 race which includes more than its fair share of big names.
Tony Martin has already stated that it will be difficult to defend his overall title, but don’t count out a solo attack similar to the one which set up his win last year. More likely, though, the GC will be contested by in-form men such as new world champion Rui Costa (Movistar) and Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), and riders of known pedigree such as Richie Porte (Sky), Ivan Basso (Cannondale), Robert Gesink (Belkin) and Michael Rogers (Saxo-Tinkoff).
I should probably add Ag2r’s Giro sensation Carlos Betancur to that list, but did anyone notice him at the Vuelta (126th overall), the Worlds road race (35th) or Il Lombardia (31st)? No, me neither. Now that I’ve said that, he’ll probably go and win it …
With Kittel, Cavendish, Greipel and Sagan all enjoying their off-seasons, there are opportunities for other sprinters to shine. Cannondale’s Elia Viviani has won a stage at each of the previous two editions – only he and Martin hold this distinction – and will be strongly favoured to make it three in a row.
However, he will face stiff competition from a cadre of up-and-coming and second-tier sprinters, including Vuelta double stage winner Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE), Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ), Steele von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp), Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida).
Watch out also for some of the strong men of the peloton to go on the attack on the two rolling stages (two and three). How about a season-ending win for Thor Hushovd (BMC), Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) or Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM)?
Or – a purely sentimental nomination – Argos-Shimano’s Albert Timmer? Assuming he completes the race, the 28-year-old domestique – he has just two top 20 finishes this year – will have notched up 104 days of racing this season, more than any other rider.
Finally, a shout-out for those who will be entering their last WorldTour event here. Vacansoleil-DCM and Euskaltel-Euskadi willl both cease to exist at the end of the season, and the peloton will also be waving goodbye to much-loved riders such as Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil) and Marco Pinotti (BMC).
October 11th: Stage 1 – Shunyi to Huairou Studio City, 190.5km
October 12th: Stage 2 – Huairou Studio City to Yanqing, 126km
October 13th: Stage 3 – Yanqing to Qiandiajian, 176km
October 14th: Stage 4 – Yanqing to Mentougou Miaofeng Mountain, 150.5km
October 15th: Stage 5 – Tiananmen Square to Bird’s Nest Piazza, 117km
The Tour of Beijing starts on Friday 11th October and concludes on Tuesday 15th. Live action will be shown daily on Eurosport. For other channels check cyclingfans.com.
Link: Official website