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Tour of Beijing stage 1: Martin rules the roost at the Bird’s Nest

Stage 1: Bird’s Nest to Water Cube, 11.3km individual time trial

British riders occupied four of the top five spots in the Tour of Beijing‘s opening individual time trial, but none could match newly crowned world time trial champion Tony Martin as the German yet again proved unbeatable against the clock. He blitzed the course 17 seconds faster than next-best David Millar – a blistering 1.5 seconds per kilometre quicker on average.

Martin in dominant form (again)

Against the smog-obscured backdrop of Beijing’s two most recognisable Olympic venues – the National Stadium (more colloquially known as the ‘Bird’s Nest’) and the Water Cube – the 11.3km course favoured powerful bike-handling over aerodynamic efficiency. These characteristics were enhanced by the use of standard road bikes rather than time trial machines to keep teams’ costs down. The pan-flat route contained four 90-degree bends in the first 2km before a winding loop through the Olympic Park led to a final 3km section with a further four sharp corners. These constant changes of direction made it difficult for the riders to get into any kind of rhythm as they repeatedly scrubbed off speed through the corners and then powered out of them.

Britain’s Alex Dowsett (Sky) set the early benchmark of 13:57, which would eventually stand as the third-best time of the day. Teammate Steve Cummings followed that up with a 14:08, but it was not until the final tranche of riders that the top of the timesheet finally took shape.

Martin yet again proved unbeatable against the clock (image courtesy of highroadsports.com)

Veteran David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo) made it a provisional all-British podium, becoming the first man under 14 minutes as he stopped the clock at 13:50. He was immediately followed by prologue specialist and recent Tour of Britain winner Lars Boom (Rabobank), who represented a genuine challenge for the stage win. Boom did not spare any effort, his tongue hanging out as he strained every sinew, but he could only record 14:09, sixth overall.

Chris Froome (Sky), who finished second overall at the Vuelta a España last month, slotted between teammates Dowsett and Cummings with a time of 13:59 to give Britain the top four spots. However Tony Martin, the last man to set off in the rainbow jersey signifying him as the world time trial champion, set off at a blistering pace. He quickly caught and passed Olympic road race champion Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), who had started a minute ahead of him. Sánchez later revealed he was suffering from a stomach virus, but it was nonetheless a clear indication of Martin’s form. Ultimately, it was no surprise when the German finished fully 17 seconds faster than Millar’s time to claim a thoroughly dominant victory and the first ever red leader’s jersey of the race.

The 26-year old was happy to have won his seventh major time trial of the year – including those at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España – despite the added pressure of wearing the rainbow jersey:

I felt the pressure of the rainbow jersey. Everyone was looking to me. It’s a big honour for me to win in the rainbow jersey and to win my first race since winning the rainbow jersey takes a little pressure off now.

More than two-thirds of the field failed to finish within a minute of Martin’s time. A suffering Sánchez was a massive 1:57 down in 133rd, but he was not the only overall contender to lose large swathes of time. Janez Brajkovič was a disappointing 27th, 55 seconds down, while Jurgen Van den Broeck (+1:03) and Damiano Cunego (+1:24) both lost over a minute to effectively rule themselves out of overall contention. Former world under-23 time trial champion Jack Bobridge (+1:09) will also have been disappointed with his lowly 66th place.

The AG2R pair of Jean-Christophe Péraud and Nicola Roche will have been pleased with their ninth and 14th-place finishes respectively, as will Rabobank’s Luis León Sánchez in eighth. But each lost at least 41 seconds to Martin, severely hampering their chances of overall victory.

Martin is well capable of getting over the kind of medium mountains the peloton will face on stage three, the one real opportunity for the climbers to open up a time gap. Already after just one stage it will probably require a bad day or some other misfortune to befall him if anyone is to wrest the red jersey from his shoulders.

Stage 2 preview

Before Friday’s testing climbs, stage two takes the peloton 137km to the mountainous Mentougou district on the western edge of Beijing. There the peloton will complete two circuits. There is a small climb 14.5km from the finish, which may provide the springboard for a late attack. However, a bunch sprint is still likely and Martin is unlikely to be unduly troubled.

Stage 2 profile

Stage 1 result:

1. Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) 13:33

2. David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo) +0:17

3. Alex Dowsett (Sky) +0:24

4. Chris Froome (Sky) +0:26

5. Steve Cummings (Sky) +0:35

6. Lars Boom (Rabobank) +0:36

7. Olivier Kaisen (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +0:39

8. Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank) +0:41

9. Jean-Christophe Péraud (AG2R La Mondiale) +0:43

10. Dario Cataldo (Quick Step) +0:43

Live coverage and highlights will be shown daily by British Eurosport in the UK.

Tour of Beijing posts

Preview

Links: Official Tour of Beijing website, steephill.tv

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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