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After the early break was caught less than 500m from the line, Modolo came off Hofland’s wheel in a very confusing sprint and held off Henderson and Boasson Hagen to take the win; Gilbert won the final WorldTour race overall

Photo: OPQS / Tim de Waele

DANIEL MARTIN

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EDVALD BOASSON HAGEN

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ESTEBAN CHAVES

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GREGORY HENDERSON

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PHILIPPE GILBERT

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SACHA MODOLO

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TOUR OF BEIJING

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UAE TEAM EMIRATES

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14.10.2014 @ 11:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) ended the 2014 season in the same great way he started it when he won the final stage of the Tour of Beijing in a very confusing bunch sprint. When the early break was caught less than 500m from the line, he perfectly came off Moreno Hofland’s wheel and narrowly held off Greg Henderson (Lotto Belisol) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) in a photo finish. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) finished safely in the bunch to win the final WorldTour race overall.

 

In January, Sacha Modolo got his career as a Lampre-Merida rider off to the perfect start when he won the final stage of his first race with the team, Tour de San Luis. Today he bookended his season with wins when he emerged as the fastest in the bunch sprint on the final day of the Tour of Beijing.

 

However, it was no foregone conclusion that the flat circuit race in the Chinese capital would end in a bunch sprint. Such stages are traditionally pretty easy to control but apparently the sprint teams took things a bit too easy. The early break of Laurent Mangel (FDJ) – in his final professional race – and Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Belisol) put up a surprisingly good fight that forced the peloton to hit the panic button in the finale.

 

For a long time, it was just the BMC team of race leader Philippe Gilbert that set the pace and they had no interest in catching the break. Giant-Shimano was the first sprint team to lend a hand but only 20km remained when Garmin-Sharp finally put a rider on the front.

 

With two laps and 16km to go, the gap was still more than 2 minutes and this prompted several teams to react. The last two laps were raced at an amazing speed and most teams had to use up their lead-out men to bring back the break.

 

During the final lap, the front duo lost ground quickly and with 2km to go, it was apparent that they wouldn’t make it. With just 500m to go, they were swept up as Belkin roared towards the finish line with Moreno Hofland at the back of the train.

 

The young Dutchman launched his sprint from a good position but he hit the headwind too early. Instead, it was Modolo who benefited from the lead-out, coming off the Dutchman’s wheel. Greg Henderson and Edvald Boasson Hagen both tried to pass him but both ran out of metres in a very close photo finish.

 

For race leader Gilbert, things went according to plan and he defended his 3-second lead over Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) to win the final edition of the Tour of Beijing overall. Johan Esteban Chaves ended his first season as a WorldTour rider in great fashion, finishing the race in third.

 

By finishing fourth on the stage, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) took the points jersey off Luka Mezgec’s shoulders while Michal Golas (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won the mountains jersey. Chaves was of course the best young rider while his Orica-GreenEDGE team won the teams classification.

 

The race brought the 2014 WorldTour to an end and it was Alejandro Valverde who won the individual ranking. Movistar was the best team while Spain again was the strongest nation.

 

For most riders, this was the final race of the season but some of them will be back in action on Sunday in the Japan Cup.

 

A flat stage

For the second year in a row, the Tour of Beijing finished with a completely flat stage in the Chinese capital. At just 117km, it was a very short affair. The first 23.5km were made up of a flat run from the Tiananmen Square to the Bird’s Nest Stadium where the riders ended the race by doing 12 laps of a flat, non-technical 7.8km finishing circuit where a bunch sprint was expected.

 

It was a beautiful sunny day in Beijing when the 130 remaining riders took the start on the final day of WorldTour racing in 2014. They got the race off to a very fast start as they travelled from the Tiananmen Square to the finishing circuit, with lots of riders attacking right from the gun.

 

A duo get clear

After 15km of racing, no one had managed to escape the peloton’s clutches but moments later, a duo succeeded in getting clear. Laurent Mangel (FDJ) – in the final race of his career – and Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Belisol) combined forces to distance the peloton and by the time they crossed the finish line for the first time, they were already two minutes ahead of the peloton.

 

BMC hit the front of the peloton with Dominik Nerz, Tejay van Garderen, Yannick Eijssen and Martin Kohler and the quartet kept the gap stable at around 2 minutes for the first laps. Meanwhile, both the peloton and the escapees took it pretty easy, with the front duo saving energy for a final acceleration.

 

Van Rensburg scores points

Mangel led van der Sande across the line in the first intermediate sprint while the peloton sprinted for the final points and bonus second. To protect Mezgec’s lead in the points classification, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg took third while Sergey Chernetckii narrowly missed out on the important bonifications by taking fourth.

 

With 8 laps to go, the gap was still 2.20 but BMC clearly showed that they had no interest in catching the break. They allowed the gap to grow and with 54km to go, the escapees were 3.15 ahead.

 

Giant-Shimano start to chase

This was the signal for Giant-Shimano to kick into action and they asked Cheng Ji to contribute to the pace-setting. As a consequence, the gap started to slowly come down.

 

With 40km to go, the riders approached the final intermediate sprint and this prompted Pieter Serry (OPQS) to attack as the Belgian wanted to solidify his 10th place in the overall standings. While Mangel led van der Sande across the line, Ag2r and Katusha started to chase and they caught Serry just a few metres from the sprint point. Here Giant-Shimano led van Rensburg out for the sprint and the South African held off Rigoberto Uran (OPQS) and Julian Arredondo (Trek) who both missed out on important bonus seconds.

 

The gap grows

Kohler, van Garderen, Nerz, Eijssen and Ji went back to work but as the gap has come down to 1.28, they took it easy. As the sprint teams didn’t react, the gap reached 2.30 with 25km to go, prompting Garmin-Sharp to put Lachlan Morton on the front.

 

It was now left to Ji and Morton to do the work but with 3 laps to go, the gap was still 2.40. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and later Tobias Ludvigsson (Garmin-Sharp) came to the fore but at the start of the penultimate lap, the gap was still 2.23.

 

Several teams hit the panic button

Now more teams reacted. First Movistar put Pablo Lastras on the front, then Trek added Riccardo Zoidl to the team of chasers, Belkin used Steven Kruijswijk, Paul Martens and later Nick van der Lijke for the work and finally Sky asked Philip Deignan and Ian Boswell to hit the front. As Garmin also had Phil Gaimon on the front, the gap was now coming down rapidly and at the start of the final lap, it was 1.15.

 

The peloton was now riding at full speed and with 3km to go, they had brought the gap down to just 28 seconds. Just before that mark, Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) hit the deck, losing his overall 14th place as a consequence.

 

Pozzato hits the front

Lotto Belisol hit the front with Adam Hansen and Boris Vallee but they were passed by the Lampre train of Filippo Pozzato, Maximiliano Richeze and Sacha Modolo. Mangel looked back and as Belkin took over with Tom Leezer, Graeme Brown and Hofland just before the red kite, it was clear that the break would be caught.

 

Belkin won the battle against Movistar for control and with less than 500m to go, they swept up the escapees. Hofland started his sprint from the front but it was Modolo who came off his wheel to take the win.

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