Struck hard by illness and languishing in the bottom heap of the 152 rider peloton, Samuel Sanchez was expected to remain outside the major placings during today’s 148km second stage from Bird’s Nest Plaza to Men Tao Gou. By contrast, perhaps nobody expected a Chinese rider to be today’s most aggressive rider.
Kun Jiang, the first starter in yesterday’s time trial – and consequently the first Chinese rider ever to compete in a UCI World Tour event – deservedly achieved today’s (jersey-less) prize for Most Aggressive Rider.
At 188 meters elevation, and only 90 minutes into the race, the sole King of the Mountains (KOM) climb didn’t trouble the peloton, though the bunch allowed a breakaway group of four riders, including Jiang, to stay up front for three of the four 21km circuits that featured the fast-paced ascent.
Shortly after the race convoy left Beijing’s bristling centre behind, our van, filled with media representatives from China and Taiwan, took the first of several wrong turns – the worst of which was a well-intended but suicidal u-turn heading back in the direction of the bunch during the circuit phase of the stage. Luckily the lead commissaire vehicle, inhabited by officials awash with expressions of horror, was first to encounter our driver, making it clear such an act was NEVER TO BE REPEATED AGAIN.
Finally, the public were able to get within reaching distance of the riders, creating a far more intimate atmosphere than the previous day. A massive live screen, pointed in completely the wrong direction for the masses to see (note to organisers…) enabled terrific footage of the closing kilometres, which were being ticked off at sub-minute intervals.
An earlier crystal-ball comment from my new mate Shannon came to fruition as Aussie Heinrich Haussler pushed hard over the finish line to secure the stage win, ahead of Russian Denis Galimzyanov and Theo Bos from the Netherlands.
STAGE 2 RESULTS (Top 10)
MARTIN Tony 148.3km in 3.17:03 (45km/h)
MILLAR David @ 17″
DOWSETT Alex @ 24″
FROOME Christopher @ 26″
CUMMINGS Stephen @ 35″
KAISEN Olivier @ 39″
SANCHEZ GIL Luis Leon @ 41″
PERAUD Jean Christophe @ 43″
GRIVKO Andriy @ 43″
CATALDO Dario @ 43″