Tony Martin, Samuel Sanchez and Andy Schleck rate chances before Tour of Beijing
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Monday, October 8, 2012

Tony Martin, Samuel Sanchez and Andy Schleck rate chances before Tour of Beijing

by VeloNation Press at 7:45 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour of Beijing
Final countdown to start of last WorldTour event of 2012

Tony MartinDefending champion Tony Martin previously said he was fired up to fight the climbers in this year’s Tour of Beijing but he has put that task in a new perspective today, acknowledging that he’ll have to ride out of his skin to defend his title.

The German won his second consecutive world time trial title last month and is in good form, but his chances are hampered by the lack of a race against the clock this week.

“Last year was my first time in China and I really enjoyed this experience,” said Martin at today’s press conference, held on the eve of the race. “The Tour of Beijing is one of the best organised races in the all season. The plan to come back this year was made in spring whatever I would win or not the time trial in the 2012 UCI Road World Championships. “

“As the Tour of Beijing doesn't include a time trial anymore, my chances to repeat my victory are a bit tight. However, I will try again and keep fighting.”

The Omega Pharma Quick Step rider will face a strong lineup of competitors who are keen to win the second edition of the race. This number includes Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel Euskadi), who is returning to top form after crashing out of the Tour de France and missing his chance to defend the Olympic road race title he took four years ago.

Sanchez’s condition is improving steadily, as evidenced by solid rides in the Tour of Britain and world road race championships, then his fine second place in the Il Lombardia Classic.

He rode the Tour of Beijing last year but was tired at the end of the season and wasn’t competitive. This time round, he’s much better mentally and physically, and is also inspired by the thoughts of what he achieved four years ago.

“It is a very special feeling to be back to Beijing as my gold medal four years ago in the Olympic Games definitely changed my life,” stated the Spaniard.

“Last year I enjoyed training and racing on the Olympics' course and I had some good memories coming back. This is the same this year. The race is hillier, which is a good point for me. We have no sprinter in the team, so we must make the mountain stage as hard as possible and we are ready for that.”

One who would normally also be a factor in the mountains is Andy Schleck, the RadioShack Nissan rider who inherited the 2010 Tour de France title after Alberto Contador was disqualified. He’s normally one of the best in the world on uphill slopes, but was badly injured in the Critérium du Dauphiné and only returned to racing last week.

As a result it’s over-ambitious for his fans to expect him to win the race, but he’ll be determined to put in a solid showing and to start putting his career back on track. It’s not about what he can do this week, but more about how racing will help him in building up towards 2013, a season which needs to be successful.

"To many riders, the Tour of Beijing is the last race of the year, but to me this is a new beginning,” he said, displaying his mental freshness compared to the fatigue of others.

“After I fractured my hip in June it has taken time to recover but my pain doesn't bother me riding anymore,” he continued. “I am very happy to be back to the peloton, to my team, to a professional rider's life, [and] to put a number back on my jersey.”

He rode with fans, sponsors and guests yesterday and said that it helped him to realise the support the riders will have this week. The organisers are hoping for a much higher number of spectators this year than last; one of those who is guaranteed plenty of encouragement is the Champion System rider Xu Gang, the current Chinese national champion.

He said that the he and his colleagues will welcome the support. “To be honest, the race will be difficult as we haven't experienced the UCI WorldTour level before. But I will do my best for sure. I hope to share with my team-mates my little experience of international races like the Tour of South China Sea [he won in 2008, Ed.]. Given I am not fast enough in the sprints I would like to show myself in the mountains stage in the north of Beijing.”

Whatever happens, he sees the wildcard granted to the Chinese squad as being a big boost. “For my team and myself, the Tour of Beijing is a great opportunity to ride with world class athletes we see on television and in the newspapers.”

The race begins tomorrow with a 117 kilometre stage from Tiananmen Square to Bird’s Nest Olympic Piazza, and it runs for five days. A total of 143 riders from 30 countries will take part, with all eighteen WorldTour teams present.

According to Sanchez, conditions are just right. “It is currently about 23-24°C, so it's perfect to ride a bike.”

2012 Tour of Beijing:

Stage One – Tuesday 9th October: Tiananmen Square to Bird’s Nest Olympic Piazza, 117 km
Stage Two – Wednesday 10th October: Bird’s Nest Piazza to Men Tou Gou Yong Ding River Cultural Square, 126 km
Stage Three – Thursday 11th October: Green Sea Forest Park to Yan Qing Ba Da Ling Great Wall, 162.5 km
Stage Four – Friday 12th October: Yan Qing Gui Chuan Square to Chang Ping Stadium, 165.5 km
Stage Five – Saturday 13th October: Chang Ping Stadium to Ping Gu Centenary Square, 182.5 km


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