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Norwegian beats Mezgec in a close sprint on the first day of the final WorldTour race of the season and so becomes the first leader of the five-day race

Photo: A.S.O. / Pascal Perreve

NIKOLAS MAES

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THOR HUSHOVD

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TOUR OF BEIJING

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11.10.2013 @ 11:01 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Thor Hushovd (BMC) got his Tour of Beijing off to a perfect start when the powerful Norwegian won the bunch sprint that ended the first stage of the five-day race in China. He came fast from behind in the closing metres to pass Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano) just before the line while Nikolas Maes (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) rounded out the podium.

 

Thor Hushovd has repeatedly shown that he is back to his best following a difficult 2012 season and today he continued his run of success when he won the first stage of the final WorldTour race of the season, the Tour of Beijing. The Norwegian came fast from behind in the bunch sprint that ended the mostly flat opener of the 5-day race to overtake Luka Mezgec just before the line at a time when the young Slovenian appeared destined to take his WorldTour season.

 

Instead, it was Norwegian veteran Hushovd who took his third WorldTour win of the season following his two stage wins in the Tour de Pologne. One of the pre-race favourites Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) was clearly the fastest in the final sprint but the Frenchman was too badly positioned and had to settle for a disappointing 8th place while the Omega Pharma-Quick Step duo of Nikolas Maes and Alessandro Petacchi rounded out the top 4.

 

The sprint came at the end of a controlled stage where FDJ and Cannondale combined forces to reel in a 4-rider breakaway. However, things got a bit tricky near the end when Sander Cordeel (Lotto Belisol) set off on his own and managed to build up a gap that at one point appeared to threaten the expected bunch sprint. Hushovd showed his intentions when he asked his BMC teammates to up the pace and things were brought back together with 5km to go.

 

With the win, Hushovd is of course also the first leader of the race and he takes a 3-second lead over one of the day's escapees, Willem Wauters (Vacansoleil), into tomorrow's 2nd stage. At 201,5km, it is the longest of the race and significantly more hilly than today's flat affair but a sprint is once again expected.

 

A flat stage

The third edition of the Tour of Beijing kicked off with an almost entirely flat 190,5km stage. Only a single category 3 climb in the early part of the stage could split things up a bit and a bunch sprint was the expected outcome of the stage.

 

With a sprint finish being the expected outcome, there was no big fight to get into the day's early break. Almost from the gun Sander Cordeel (Lotto Belisol), Willem Wauters (Vacansoleil), Ryota Nishizono (Champion System) and Davide Vigano (Lampre-Merida) escaped and they were quickly allowed to build up a gap of a massive 9 minutes at the 35km mark. At that point, the Cannondale team of Elia Viviani started to control things and they have gradually reduced the gap. The sprinter Elia Viviani won the opening stage last year and hoped to repeat the feat today.

 

Cordeel in the mountains jersey

Up ahead, the riders contested the only KOM sprint. Cordeel beat Wauters and Vigano and so the Lotto rider will wear the first mountains jersey tomorrow. Vigano beat Cordeel and Wauters in the first intermediate sprint to pick up 3 bonus seconds.

 

Inside the final 100km of the stage, Cannondale got assistance from Bouhanni's FDJ team and for most of the remaining part of the stage, Michel Koch, Cameron Wurf (both Cannondale) and Johan Le Bon (FDJ) swapped turns on the front. When the riders passed the site of the second intermediate sprint 76km from the finish, the gap was down to just 3.20 as Wauters beat Cordeel and Vigano in the sprint.

 

The peloton slows down

14km further up the road, the gap was down to 2.07 and so the peloton decided to take the foot off the gas. For quite a while, the advantage stayed between the 2- and 3-minute marks while Le Bon, Koch and Wurf set a gentle pace on the front.

 

With 45km to go, Vigano decided that he had had enough and so he fell back to the peloton. A few moments later, Wauters beat Cordeel and Nishizono in the final intermediate sprint of the day.

 

The break splits up

With 35km to go, the gap was down to just 1.20 and so Nishizono decided to set off on his own. Wauters didn't care and fell back to the peloton but Cordeel refused to give up. The Belgian caught Nishizono and quickly left him behind, thus setting off on a solo mission.

 

Impressively, Cordeel managed reopen his gap to 2.48 and when he passed the 20km to go mark, he was still 2.40 ahead. Meanwhile, Nishizono was caught.

 

More teams start to chase

With 19km to go, Argos-Shimano decided that it was time to up the pace and so they asked Tom Peterson to join the team of pace-setters. As the peloton headed up a small climb, BMC also showed their intentions when time trial specialist Marco Pinotti strung things out and for the next few kilometres, it was Peterson, Pinotti and Stephen Cummings (BMC) who did all the work.

 

The gap was now coming down quickly and with 10km to go, Cordeel was only 25 seconds ahead. The lead-out trains were now fighting for position with Cannondale and Omega Pharma-Quick Step battling hard for control.

 

Cordeel is caught

With 5km to go, Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) took a huge turn on the front and that spelled the end for Cordeel who was caught. Moments later, Saxo-Tinkoff hit the front but they were overtaken by FDJ who lined out Cedric Pineau, Anthony Roux, Dominique Rollin on the front.

 

The French team had burnt their matches too early and instead it was Orica-GreenEDGE that timed things perfectly. With 2km to go, Luke Durbrdige, Jens Mouris, Mitchell Docker and Michael Matthews hit the front and they strung things out while also neutralizing an attack from Matthew Brammeier (Champion System).

 

Docker gave Matthews the perfect lead-out and he went head to head with Petacchi. However, they were both overtaken by Mezgec who appeared to have locked up the win when Hushovd suddenly saw an opening and took a narrow win ahead of the Slovenian.

 

Result:

1. Thor Hushovd 4.20.34

2. Luka Mezgec

3. Nikolas Maes

4. Alessandro Petacchi

5. Michael Matthews

6. Enrique Sanz

7. Rüdiger Selig

8. Nacer Bouhanni

9. Jonas Vangechten

10. Roberto Ferrari

 

General classification:

1. Thor Hushovd 4.20.24

2. Willem Wauters +0.03

3. Luka Mezgec +0.04

4. Nikolas Maes +0.06

5. Ryota Nishizono +0.09

6. Alessandro Petacchi +0.10

7. Michael Matthews

8. Enrique Sanz

9. Rüdiger Selig

10. Nacer Bouhanni

 

Points classification:

1. Thor Hushovd 15

2. Luka Mezgec 14

3. Nikolas Maes 13

4. Willem Wauters 12

5. Alessandro Petacchi 12

 

Mountains classification:

1. Sander Cordeel 3

2. Willem Wauters 2

3. Davide Vigano 1

 

Youth classification:

1. Willem Wauters 4.20.27

2. Luka Mezgec +0.01

3. Michael Matthews +0.07

4. Enrique Sanz

5. Rüdiger Selig

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