Tour of Beijing: Gavazzi outsprints the favourites to take stage three on the Great Wall
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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tour of Beijing: Gavazzi outsprints the favourites to take stage three on the Great Wall

by Ben Atkins at 5:15 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Race Reports and Results
Boasson Hagen attack caught in the final metres; Tony Martin holds on to overall lead

Francesco GavazziFrancesco Gavazzi (Astana) won the Queen stage of the 2012 Tour of Beijing, between Mentougou and Badaling Great Wall as he outsprinted a highly select group at the end of the final climb to the line. The Italian outsprinted Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) after the Irishman had chased down what looked like a winning attack from Norwegian champion Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) in the final few hundred metres; as Gavazzi went to the Sky rider’s right, he just managed to force his front wheel ahead of Martin’s, who had gone to the left.

Boasson Hagen, having attacked with just under three kilometres to go, almost ground to a halt in the final twenty metres, but held on to take third place, less than a length behind Gavazzi.

“I am delighted with the victory, which I have been chasing for the whole of this year," said Gavazzi afterwards. "I was desperate to end the season well, this is my first year at Astana and I wanted to repay the faith of this team, which has always believed in me.”

Race leader Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was present in the front group and, despite losing a few seconds to the stage’s top three as they took bonuses on the line, comfortably held on to his red jersey for another day.

“There are still two stages to go until the end of the Tour of Beijing and I am in second place with the hardest stages behind us." said Gavazzi. "Now I have got to defend second place and try to make life difficult for the leader of the general classification.”

The 162.5km stage was animated by a seven-man break from Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ-BigMat), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Johnny Hoogerland and Pim Lighthart (both Vacansoleil-DCM), Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi), George Bennett (RadioShack-Nissan) and Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEdge). The fugitives escaped after 35km, and built a maximum lead of 4’41”, before being gradually pulled back by the peloton.

As the steady climb to the finish began, with just over ten kilometres to go, Meier attacked the group in an effort to go it alone, but he too was picked shortly afterwards up as Garmin-Sharp led the peloton up to him.

As Meier was caught, Sylvain Georges (AG2R La Mondiale) countered and managed to build a lead of a few seconds. The Frenchman was caught with just under four kilometres to go however, and Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) burst clear; the Basque was not to be in the lead for long however, as Boasson Hagen leapt across the gap and left him standing less than a kilometre later.

The Norwegian champion looked to have done enough to take the stage but, as he began to tire in the final metres, Martin led the small lead group up to him, with Gavazzi taking the sprint on the line.

Reactions to follow

A breakaway through the smog of Beijing’s Queen stage

After two clear days, where winds had blown Beijing’s notorious pollution away from the race, the smog returned with a visible haze covering the city reaching "Unhealthy" levels.

Omega Pharma-Quick Step shut down a number of moves that were deemed a threat to Martin’s overall lead, but then allowed Ladagnous, Grivko, Hoogerland, Lighthart, Nieve, Bennett and Meier to escape after 35km, as the second climb of the day began. Having got away, the seven riders quickly built themselves an advantage, and were three minutes clear by the 50km point.

This lead meant that Ladagnous was moving into the virtual race lead, best placed overall in the break as he was, starting the day exactly three minutes behind Martin.

Over the big 1st category climb of the day, after 68.5km, the gap had grown to 4’35” but, after allowing a few more seconds at the intermediate sprint that followed after 81km, Omega Pharma-Quick Step began to work to close down the seven-man group.

With 60km to go, and with the break’s lead still at 3’45”, Liquigas-Cannondale sent stage one winner Elia Viviani himself forward to assist in the chase. The seven riders were all still working well together though, and with 30km to go it was still 2’45”; this meant that Martin was back in the virtual race lead, but Garmin-Sharp also began sending riders forward to close the break down.

Steadily, as Garmin-Sharp sent more riders forward, the seconds of the break’s advantage ticked down as the race traversed the flat, urban approach to the final climb to the Great Wall. As the road began to rise with 13km to go, the advantage was down to a minute and, as several riders in the group started to push the pace Bennett, and then Ligthart, were dropped out of the back.

With the peloton on their heels, and with the cars being removed from the gap, Meier attacked the remains of the group. The Swiss rider was just 30 seconds ahead of the bunch with ten kilometres to go however, as it began to pick up his former breakaway companions.

With nine kilometres left though, Garmin-Sharp led the peloton past Meier as the road began to steepen. After a sharp dig from Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal though, Georges attacked with Anthony Geslin (FDJ-BigMat); they were closed down at first, but George jumped again and managed to pull out a few seconds lead. Team Sky was now on the front of the peloton, assisting Omega Pharma-Quick Step, and had the Frenchman under control.

With five kilometres to go the peloton was down to just 50 riders and was now right on the wheel of Meier and, as it pulled up to him, Antón shot out of the pack. The Basque rider opened what looked like a good gap over the peloton, but Boasson Hagen jumped across it with three kilometres to go and flew right by.

Into the final kilometre the Norwegian champion was ten seconds clear and showing no signs of being caught. As the road began to rise again on the approach to the finish he powered away in the saddle, and continued to pull out further seconds. Garmin-Sharp was chasing again however, with mountains leader Dan Martin sprinting up the final few hundred metres, but - as Boasson Hagen began to tie up just before the line - Gavazzi shot by to take the victory.

Result stage 3
1. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana
2. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky
4. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
5. Rui Costa (Por) Movistar Team
6. Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Rabobank
7. Eros Capecchi (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
8. Moreno Moser (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
9. Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team
10. Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Lampre-ISD

Standings after stage 3
1. Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
2. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana @ 40s
3. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp @ 50s
4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky @ 52s
5. Eros Capecchi (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
6. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale @ 56s
7. Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Vacansoleil-DCM
8. Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
9. Rui Costa (Por) Movistar Team @ 1’00”
10. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Belisol @ 1’00”


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