Two days. Two breaks. Two different ORICA-GreenEDGE riders up the road. Sports Director Laurenzo Lapage describes stages three and four of Tour of Beijing in today’s race report.
The plan on stage three was to put Christian Meier in a breakaway in the second half of the race. An opportunity came earlier than expected, and he took it. It may have been too early, but sometimes a race decides when is the right time. Christian went when he saw a chance.
The break worked well together – especially during the last hour. There seemed to be some sense that they might able to stay away. While Christian was up the road, his teammates prepared themselves for the final climb. They needed to be ready if the breakaway was caught.
As the peloton closed in on the break, Christian attacked the other four riders. He felt strong, and I think he had the most combative rider prize on his mind. Also, his move could have been good for our others riders that could have come up to him from behind.
In the last 20 kilometers, Leigh Howard, Allan Davis and Simon Clarke moved to the front of the bunch. Christian was still up the road at this point. They were not in any way contributing to the chase but rather positioning themselves for the climb.
In the end, Christian led the race alone for five kilometers. He was caught with eight kilometers left to race. Simon Clarke was our highest placed finisher in 11th place, finishing on the same time as stage winner Francesco Gavazzi (Astana).
Today’s stage began with a fast first hour of racing. Mitch Docker, Sebastian Langeveld and Wes Sulzberger were asked to stay at the front from the start so as not to miss the breakaway. When the early break went, Mitch was able to put himself in it with four other riders.
We suspected today would come down to a field sprint, and our plan originally was to ride for Leigh Howard. During the race, he told us he had stomach problems, so we changed the plan and decided to ride for Alby.
With Mitch up the road, the other guys sat around each and waited until it became clear that the breakaway wasn’t going to make it. At that point, they stuck closer together and moved towards the front. We couldn’t get quite as organized as we would have liked at the finish, and Alby ended up finishing eighth in the sprint with Marco Heller (Katusha) surprising the sprinters to take the win.
Tomorrow is a hilly stage that could suit Simon if it comes down to a small group. If things come back together after the climbs, we’ll ride for Alby again. The final stage of Tour of Beijing represents our final day of WorldTour racing. After this, we have only Japan Cup next weekend standing between us and the conclusion of our successful maiden season.