BEIJING (AFP) — Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) won the final edition of the Tour of Beijing on Tuesday, in the shadow of the Bird’s Nest stadium that hosted the 2008 Olympics.
Ireland’s Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), last year’s runner-up, again took second place overall, while 24-year-old Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) of Colombia took third.
American rider Tyler Farrar (Garmin) took the green jersey for the points ranking by a single point from Slovenia’s Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano), thanks to his fourth place on Tuesday.
Italian Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) won a bunch sprint to take the race’s fifth and final stage, a 117-kilometer course that started at Tiananmen Square before making 12 loops of a circuit around the stadium.
“It was really nice but still stressful for the last lap, with a small gap like this,” said Gilbert, who entered Tuesday’s stage with only a three-second advantage over Martin and several sprint and place bonuses available.
“So, I took the before-last corner in a really good position, and then I saw that it was OK, because of the headwind in the last kilometer. I didn’t take any risk,” added Gilbert, the 2012 road world champion.
While Monday and Tuesday’s stages took place under clear blue skies, heavy pollution earlier in the last UCI WorldTour event of the season forced Saturday’s hilly second stage to be cut short by about a quarter — a development that gave a boost to Gilbert, who is not known as a climber.
In his last professional race before retirement, French rider Laurent Mangel (FDJ.fr) sought to go out on a high in Beijing, breaking away from the pack with Belgium’s Tosh van der Sande (Lotto-Belisol) early on and the pair maintaining a gap almost to the end, only to be swept up by the peloton inside the final kilometer. “They only caught us with about 400 meters to go,” said van der Sande. “I felt really strong and was confident to go to the finish and sprint with the two of us. It’s a pity.”
“It was close, but we tried to make the other teams work because we worked a lot this week,” stage winner Modolo said. “In the end, it worked out.”
“It’s a good race and it’s good to take cycling to new territories.”
The Tour of Beijing was being contested for the last time, with the organizers admitting the event “has not been without difficulties,” and was overshadowed by some top-level withdrawals including Vuelta a Espana winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and WorldTour points winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
“It [The Tour of Beijing] was a great experience, and I’m glad that my name will be in this palmares,” said Gilbert. “It was very special to finish here also with those monuments, those roads are very special.”