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“There will be a lot of attention on me and we all know that it’s not easy to race the Tour de France and I am here this week to support my team,” he said in front of a large local media contingent.

Photo: Movistar Team

BEÑAT INTXAUSTI

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DANIEL MARTIN

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PHILIPPE GILBERT

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TOUR OF BEIJING

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09.10.2014 @ 20:28 Posted by Andy Pedersen

It’s the best peloton in the event’s short history and if the defending champion, Movistar’s Benat Inxausti, wants to join Tony Martin as a two-time winner of the Tour of Beijing, then he is going to have to beat a strong field to win back-to-back titles.

 

The fourth and final edition of the Tour of Beijing gets underway tomorrow in Chongli, 300km north of Beijing in the winter ski fields region that is part of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games bid. With it, the final UCI WorldTour event for 2014 will be contested.

 

With a field containing the defending champion, last year’s runner up in Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), two world champions in 2012 winner Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) and 2013 winner Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), along with a raft of other grand tour stage winners, there was universal agreement at the pre-race press conference between Race Director Hai Zhenwen and Director of Global Cycling Promotion, Alain Rumpf that the Tour of Beijing will go out on a high.

 

“We have the best field we’ve ever had here at the Tour of Beijing with defending champion Benat (Intxausti), Dan [Martin] who was second last year and also the recent winner of the Il Lombadia, two ex-world champions Philippe [Gilbert] and also Rui Costa and now Chinese star Cheng Ji,” Rumpf said.

 

Special mention was also made of the four riders who have attended every instance of the Tour of Beijing – Stephen Cummings (BMC), Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol), Hayden Roulston (Trek Factory Racing) and Enrique Sanz (Movistar). Rumpf paid tribute to Hansen given he has managed to attend the event while completing 10 consecutive grand tours.

 

While some noise was made about the last-minute withdrawals of WorldTour leaders Alejandro Valverde (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) the 135-strong field incudes other possible General Classification contenders including Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step), David Lopez (Sky) and Carlos Betancur (AG2R).

 

Defending champion, Movistar’s Benat Intxausti, set up his victory on the Queen stage on 2013 and said he was looking forward to another showdown on Mentougou Miafeng Mountain.

 

“I’m very happy to be back again in Beijing,” he explained. “There are many good riders here, it will be difficult for victory but I will try.”

Giant-Shimano’s local favourite Cheng Ji, who earlier this year created history becoming the first Chinese to ride and finish the Tour de France said that his season was proof that he could tough it out in the world’s biggest races.

 

“There will be a lot of attention on me and we all know that it’s not easy to race the Tour de France and I am here this week to support my team,” he said in front of a large local media contingent.

 

2012 world champion and Classics specialist Philippe Gilbert was optimistic over his form, but not his capacity to deal with the travel for the five-stage race.

 

“The form is good but I think it’s hard to go after the general classification when you travel with the jetlag and everything,” he said. “We’ll see…”

 

Having endeared himself to Chinese cycling fans and conservationists with his adoption of the Giant Panda, 2013 runner-up Dan Martin will again receive much goodwill over the next five days. Fresh from victory in Il Lombardia, the Irishman was relaxed on race-eve.

 

“Last Sunday was a really good day and also a really big effort. It’s difficult to recover from,” he admitted. “I’d love to win it in the final edition.”

Martin will wear a specially designed helmet which features the panda and bamboo motifs in recognition of the team’s alliance with the World Wildlife Fund. Martin will auction of the helmet during the race, with proceeds going to panda conservation.

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