Aidis Kruopis opened the Tour of Beijing with a top-ten finish in Bird’s Nest Piazza after ORICA-GreenEDGE controlled the second half of the race. A five-rider break dominated the 117 kilometer day that began in Tian An Men Square and concluded after 12 laps around the Olympic Stadium.
“The plan today was to bring Kruopis in the best possible position in the last kilometer,” said Sports Director Laurenzo Lapage. “Because we knew we wanted a bunch sprint, we decided to use Christian for the chase. We did not want to allow the gap to the five man breakaway to get too big.”
The break’s advantage never exceeded two minutes. Having jumped from the bunch 14 kilometers from the stage start, the escape group hit the circuit with a 1:50 advantage. As the laps ticked down, the gap slowly did as well. Meier came to the head of the race with eight laps left.
“There was a lot of wind today, so the air conditions changed compared to yesterday,” noted Lapage. “The smog we saw earlier had lifted. Although it was windy, we raced in the center of town, so we were protected from the wind most of the time.”
The peloton caught the break in the penultimate lap, and the bunch readied for the field sprint. ORICA-GreenEDGE remained on the front heading into the last lap with the train coming to fore in the final kilometer.
“The boys did a good lead out for Aidis,” noted Lapage. “But today, it didn’t work out.”
Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) sprinted to victory ahead of Andrew Fenn (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Procycling). The Italian leads the race, thanks to bonus seconds on the finish line, by four seconds over Fenn.
“This race is obviously different from the usual races we do,” said Lapage. “But we have the sense that everyone involved is doing everything they can to give us the right feelings about being here. Their efforts to make this event so big make it a special race.”