The final edition of the tour of beijing kicked off today and I was on the start line to be apart of the historic occasion! Well not so historic really as the race has only been running since 2011 but I can proudly say I have apart of 2 of the previous editions. It's sad that the uci has decided to shelve the event however also very understandable from a logistics point of view. Sadly traveling to china is by no means as easy as traveling to and competing in all the other parts of the world we take the world tour road show to and with all the logistics and so worth involved with putting on a bike race it's understandable that's there has been a review of the events inclusion on the world tour calendar. I will write a little more about my experiences in china in a blog a little later on when I have some time to think about that side of things. Anyways the fact is this will be the forth and final running of the event and as in previous years the organizers seem to have continued to improve the variety of the course and today was certainly quite a leg sapping kick off to the 2014 event.
We began this year's tour of beijing 300km away from the city in the ski town of chongli. The stage had the potential to literally have every sort of outcome imaginable due to the profile however in the end it came down to an expected battle between the fast men. As always a lot went on between the flag dropping and luka mezgec of giant shimano celebrating the victory after 168km so here's how it looked from aboard my Cannondale evo.
The course on paper looked pretty straight forward. A couple of short but nasty climbs after 30km followed by a nice rolling plateau for 90km or so and then a gentle 50km plunge and flat run into the finish. Perfect for the sprinters really!! The catch?? The following! Those couple of short 2km climbs after 30km had ramps of 20%. By the time we crested the second one we were at 2000m above sea level! And from when the climbs began to the end of the 90km plateau was the biggest stretch of wind farm windmills I have ever seen anywhere in the world! So 1 guess as to what happened!! Yep was a shit fight to get to the front on the climbs and while we climbed them at a casual pace if you were not at the front it was going to take a big effort to move yourself up any positions. As soon as we hit the top and the wind started blowing the road across the plateau was the size of a belgium country lane and never ever was straight and was never ever flat. It was littered with leg snapping rollers and equally steep and technical downhill sections so again whatever position you were in at this point was going to take a lot of effort to move from! Let the chaos begin!
I had a hunch the you know what would hit the fan either on the climb or very soon after it so positioned myself in a nice safe position, 2nd wheel to be precise when this section began. Our sprinter for the day the canadian cannonball Boivin was close behind me so all was el capa in casa cannondale. Once we crested the 2nd climb and the rollers and wind whipped up there was no looking back. Everybody wanted to be at the front and you knew that meant it wasn't overly nice being at the back! GB and I were safely in the first 10 riders and sure enough after about 20km of this stress filled full gas battle for the front of the peleton sky hit the front and it was on like donkey Kong so to speak. Fortunately I spotted the big black sky clad kit of austrian bernie eisal chatting on his radio and a second later his men whipped into action. I followed and like always in these conditions you simply have to hang onto the wheel in front of you for grim death and hope when the dust settles and the pace subsides a little you are at the front of the bike race. Not long after I spotted the big burley figure of matt heyman of greenedge who dulley chimed in as well and while all this was going on I realized nobody was fighting me for 5th wheel anymore!! It's a good lesson cycling that when there's wind around and matt heyman is near the front, something is about to go down down!! Sure enough once I saw him ripping out monster 1000horse power turns on the front it could mean only one thing?? The race had blown apart! There were about 40 riders or so in the front group but unfortunately with still over 100km to the finish no team was heavily enough represented or wanted to commit to trying to keep maintaining the advantage. The peleton was now in around 5 groups and eventually when the dust really settled around 20km or so later a lead group of 80 riders had reformed and that would be the family that would trundle along to the finish together. As it regrouped and the numbers swelled the stress in the peleton resumed and it now took a bit of fighting to keep a front position. The cannondale clan were well represented in the front group with GB safely riding great position and looking sharp for the finish. The only real obstacle between all hell breaking loose and group exploding again in the final 50km was the final decent down to the flat run into the finish.
As we approached the decent to the finish I said to the boys I will ride on the front for 20km. I did this as the fight for the front was getting nervous with the potentially dangerous windy decent fast approaching. By me riding on the front with sky it meant our boys could safely and stresslessly line up behind sky at the front of the peleton and save precious energy both physically and through stress should the fuzz be re lit on the front. It's a simple etiquette in cycling that the team riding on the front get to sit at the front so our boys could have a nice armchair ride to the finish. The breakaway at this stage was only 1 rider and at 50 seconds with 30kms to go so we did not need to ride very hard on the front so I was pretty pleased with this situation as it was the first opportunity I had all day to recover a little and spin some of the leg sapping fatigue out of pins from the slug fest we endured on the 2000m high plateau! It's very therapudic riding on the front for me and those few gentle turns I did in the final 50km or so made me feel a hell of a lot better than I did 60km before!! GB and the boys sat patiently in a comfortable possy at the front of the field and into the final 5km the pace ramped up as the sprint trains wrestled for control of the front of the peleton. I drifted back until I found the boys and stayed close by to GB to give him one last effort to get him out of trouble should he need it. He had motorbike marunga piloting him into the final 2km so I was certainly rendered useless, marunga is a magician in this situation! Sure enough he dropped GB off on the eventual winner's wheel around 1.5km to go and all GB had to do now was hold position and open up the sprint at the right time.
As expected after a hectic leg burning day like we had just endured everybody was scrambling in the final km's. A day like today catches up with when you go for the turbo and that final km sure showed that with many teams attempting to gain control but finding it a little hard to maintain. In all this chaos GB sadly lost mezgec's wheel but the positive is he put himself in the best possible position so close to the finish. So tomorrow should end in a similar situation so we will try again for GB as he is obviously not far away from a great result! From my perspective I was happy to get though the day unscathed and not completely on my knees. It's been a long road back from my crash in big bear and an extremely long time since I competed in a world tour race so was nice to be amongst it all day. Anyways time now to get some rest and recovery as as today showed the courses here in china turn out in a by no means predictable way, looking forward to seeing the cats are pulled out the bag tomorrow.
Time 4hrs 20min
Ave Power: 235watts
Max power: 1156watts
Ave Heartrate: 140bpm
Ave Cadence: 90rpm
Kcal Burnt: 4200
Ave power without zero's: 295watts
Peak 30sec power: 720watts
Peak 20sec power: 820watts
Peak 5min Power: 445watts
Peak 10min Power: 400watts
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.