Tour of Beijing: Marco Haller takes first professional win on stage four to Chang Ping
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Friday, October 12, 2012

Tour of Beijing: Marco Haller takes first professional win on stage four to Chang Ping

by Ben Atkins at 4:57 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Tour of Beijing
 
21-year-old Austrian blasts past Alessandro Petacchi; overall classification unchanged

marco hallerMarco Haller (Katusha) burst ahead in the final hundred metres of the fourth stage of the 2012 Tour of Beijing between Yanqing and Chang Ping to take his first ever professional victory. The 21-year-old Austrian managed to find a gap in the front of the jostling pack, and overtook the early sprint of Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) to hit the line a length clear.

Petacchi managed to get onto Haller’s wheel as he passed, and just managed to hold off the attentions of stage one winner Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) to take second place at the end of the 165.5km.

"I am unbelievably happy to win today, on an UCI WorldTour event," said Haller. "I never expected to beat riders like Viviani, Petacchi or [Team Sky's Edvald] Boasson Hagen.

"I had a high speed and felt quite easy. I was thinking: 'My God! It’s possible to win! It’s really possible!' And I won!"

The sprint was only possible after the peloton had closed down a lone attack from Jérémy Roy (FDJ-BigMat) in the closing kilometres, after the Frenchman had escaped from a five-man group in the stage’s hilly section with around 45km to go.

The rest of the group was made up of Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp), Timofey Kritskiy (Katusha), Mitchell Docker (Orica-GreenEdge) and Alex Dowsett (Team Sky) and had escaped with Roy in the first 20km of the stage and built a lead of almost seven minutes before halfway. When Roy attacked the other four were powerless to stop him and, as he began the descent towards the finish, he had almost three minutes’ lead.

With the sprinters’ teams in full cry at the head of the peloton however, Roy’s capture was inevitable; with 17km to go Howes, Kritskiy, Docker and Dowsett were picked up, and Roy himself was eventually caught with just over five left.

From that point the race was left to the sprinters’ teams to battle for supremacy on the wide, flat boulevards to the finish. Lampre-ISD led into the final kilometre and, despite a counter move from Team Sky, it was Petacchi that opened his sprint first; the Italian Ale-Jet had gone too early however and, despite the confusion on Petacchi’s wheel, Haller managed to come past to take the victory.

Race leader Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) finished safely in the peloton behind Haller, along with the rest of the overall contenders, and the German held on to his red jersey with just one stage remaining.

A breakaway’s stage but a sprinter’s finale

After a frenetic start, the group of Roy, Howes, Kritskiy, Docker and Dowsett managed to escape inside the opening 20km. At the first sprint, after 24km, the five riders were 3’10” ahead, and this was to grow to a maximum of 6’30” at the 65km point.

None of the five riders was any threat to Martin’s lead and Omega Pharma-Quick Step was happy to allow the group to stay ahead. As the Belgian team controlled the front of the peloton however, the gap steadily dropped, and was down to 4’30” over the second sprint with 58km to go.

This was where the stage’s hilly section began and, after leading over the first of the three climbs, Roy jumped clear with just under 45km to go.

RadioShack-Nissan was now leading the peloton, and the gap to the leaders was beginning to close more rapidly pace; the set by the Luxembourg team had the effect of shelling teammate Andy Schleck out the back.

Over the top of the final climb, with just over 30km to go, Roy was 2’51” ahead of the peloton, with his former companions in between..

Inside the final 20km Roy had opened up a gap of 1’05” over his four former companions, but the peloton was only thirty seconds further back; one by one the breakaway riders sat up - with Docker then Kritskiy waving the white flag first - but Howes persisted, just a few seconds clear, with Dowsett in his wheel.

Finally the Garmin-Sharp rider gave up and was passed by the RadioShack-Nissan train, leaving just Roy up the road with 17km to go. With the Frenchman’s lead still a potential stage-winning one, Lotto-Belisol, Lampre-ISD and Vacansoleil-DCM all sent riders forward to help in the chase.

With 15km to go Roy’s advantage was less than a minute as the gently undulating roads were beginning to hurt the Frenchman’s legs. This minute was melting quickly inside the final ten kilometres as the sprinters’ teams set their fierce pace on the front of the peloton, but Roy was refusing to give up.

As Roy entered the outskirts of the city the peloton had him in sight, as Lotto-Belisol briefly tried to ease the pace so as to not catch him too soon. The exhausted Frenchman looked over his shoulder with just over five kilometres to go however and, realising the inevitable, sat up and allowed the bunch to stream past him.

Orica-GreenEdge tried to take control of the peloton, but Lampre-ISD, Lotto-Belisol and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank all pulled trains alongside the Australian team; Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank took over briefly, but Lampre-ISD - with BMC Racing - muscled the Danish team out with three kilometres to go.

Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank was determined to have its say however, and pulled ahead of the blue-fuchsia team with two kilometres to go, but it was Lampre-ISD that led into the final kilometre. Team Sky tried to pull ahead on the opposite side of the road, and set up Edvald Boasson Hagen, but it was Petacchi that was able to launch his sprint first.

The Italian had gone too early though, and Haller managed to squeeze through a gap beside him, swept past in the final hundred metres and took his first ever victory as a professional. Petacchi was beginning to slow, but just managed to hold off Viviani on his left as they hit the line behind the Austrian.

Result stage 4
1. Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha Team
2. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
3. Elia Viviani (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
4. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
5. Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan
6. Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
7. Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) BMC Racing Team
8. Allan Davis (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
9. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky
10. Dominique Rollin (Can) FDJ-BigMat

Standings after stage 4
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

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