Stunning scenery and opportunities to glimpse the Great Wall of China underscored today’s undulating 189.5km stage, from Yanqing Gui Chuan Square to Olympic Water Park, as the best yet. Our kamikaze driver, upon whom I bestowed the moniker “Maverick”, was in top form, thrashing our tortured Foton media van through the countryside and blasting the horn at any living creature threatening to cross his path
For the second day in a row UCC, the official bike sponsor (separate article coming soon) of the Tour of Beijing, delivered 300 mountain bikes to the start line so 300 VIP’s (mostly local government officials) could join the back of the peloton for a one-kilometre jaunt through the neutralised race zone. Here’s what 300 identical mountain bikes look like in a town square:
All of this effort for a ride that lasts one kilometre. Well, at least the hard-working employees would sleep well at night, knowing they were making a meaningful difference to the health and well-being of their friendly civil servants.
A local drumming troupe was deployed during the rider’s sign-on, adding cultural weight to the event; not that we needed reminding we weren’t in Europe, the customary home of WorldTour events.
Soon enough, the call to clamber into vehicles was made. Maverick was clearly in no mood to faff about. Clutch smoking and tyres squealing we burst through choked streets, abandoning driver-pedestrian relations and leaving eardrums ruptured through spectacular abuse of the horn. Within a few terrifying minutes, trees replaced traffic lights and Maverick’s eyes glinted through his polarised Ray Bans.
Look, there’s the Great Wall! Mouths gape as one of the Seven Wonders of The World materialised. Traversing a ridgeline of the majestically-forested Jundu Range – sheer slopes plummeting into the lake below – the scale of this awesome structure drew unblinking disbelief. Seeing some of our other media buddies stopped up ahead, Liao and I reached for our cameras in anticipation of the photo-op. After all, we had sped away from the race and were replete with time.
Alas, our friendly government-supplied official motioned that we would continue to the designated photo-shoot at Bohai Town.
A full 75 minutes before the race was due we arrived at Bohai Town which was, diplomatically speaking, a hole. I chewed angrily on a nutrition-less ‘Yummy Door Sweetheart Bread’ whilst glaring at our supervisor, annoyed at missing our sole opportunity to properly see the Great Wall The sole redeeming feature was plenty of time to find a photo spot. Radio-less, we had no idea a four-man breakaway, later joined by Lampre-ISD’s Damiano Cunego and Team China’s Wang Meiyin, had two and a half minutes on the peloton. Soon enough, the air-chopping sound of helicopter rotor-blades broke the silence.
Bohai Town momentarily pulsed with colour and life as the peloton sped through, followed by blaring police vehicles, buzzing motorbikes and the whoosh of Mercedes-Benz saloons (supplied by race sponsor BAIC, Chinese assembler of the German marque). As the last leaves fell back to the gritty streets, we hustled to the much-less-well-appointed Foton and got the heck outta there.
Only 45km from the finish, the riders would tackle a snappy 171m ascent to another section of the Great Wall near Mutianyu, before switching back to begin the mostly downhill dash to the finish line at Shunyi Olympic Rowing Centre.
Rather unsurprisingly, the breakaway was reeled in by the charging peloton with only a handful of kilometres remaining, with Liquigas-Cannondale’s Elia Vivian getting the best lead-out and stage win ahead of team-mate Peter Sagan.
STAGE 4 RESULTS (Top 10)
VIVIANI Elia 189.5km in 4.09:08 (45.6km/h)
SAGAN Peter @ 00″
HAEDO Juan Jose @ 00″
GALIMZYANOV Denis @ 00″
PORSEV Alexander @ 00″
KRISTOFF Alexander @ 00″
HOWARD Leigh @ 00″
MORI Manuele @ 00″
SANZ Enrique @ 00″
HAUSSLER Heinrich @ 00″