Riders waking to Tour of Beijing’s final day withdrew heavy hotel curtains to reveal a greyscale environment, opaque and heavily infused with the legacy of China’s insatiable industrialisation. No doubt more than a few questioned the logic of their chosen vocation today, though it never seemed possible that air thick enough to support a chopstick balanced on its end would bring this event to a premature halt. Goodwill from all foreign stakeholders, and new government precedents, ensured positive optics crowded out individual discontent.
Such precedents included allowing the stage to start from Beijing’s Tiananmen square. If the organiser’s needed to distract attention from the (API categorised) ‘hazardous’ air quality, this was a genius stroke. Though individual participants confided in media that these conditions were (to quote one Rabobank rider) “fucked up”, even more were mesmerised by their surroundings, clearly enjoying the broader opportunity presented to them. Heinrich Haussler, in true Aussie style, gave more of a “shit happens” appraisal, obviously relaxed about the overall situation.
On a personal level, I had unknowingly bade farewell to the trusty Foton media van after stage four when, on the final morning, I was pointed towards an air-conditioned Mercedes press car before the convoy rolled out. I cannot say I was disappointed.
At 13:50 the Tour of Beijing departed Tiananmen Square, travelling 18km through vast multi-lane arteries lined with curious onlookers – but never enough to fool experienced hands that oppressive crowd control had once again ruled – before arriving at the start of the 8km Olympic Park circuit that would be completed twelve times.
Only 11 more laps to go boys…
When the convoy arrived at the drop-off zone close to the circuit, I chose to use some of the repetitious time to go back to the hotel (located only five minutes walk from Bird’s Nest Stadium) to set up a private VPN. Since Friday evening, I had mysteriously lost access to WordPress, which meant no ability to communicate about the race at all – since Twitter is permanently blocked in China.
Thirty minutes before the race’s expected finish time, I strode back to the finish line to snaffle a good photo spot. As only accredited personnel could enter the Olympic Stadia, the sprawling complex resembled a ghost town at all points aside from the start/finish area.
Eerie. And a wasted opportunity.
As cycling news sites show, Katusha’s Debis Galimzyanov secured the stage win and, as expected from Day 1, Tony Martin was crowned overall winner of the 2011 Tour of Beijing.
The top three sharing an in-joke that seemed to last a long time. Would have loved to know what it was about.
A BRIEF OPINION ON THE TOUR OF BEIJING’S FUTURE
This was my sixth visit to China, and my first time in Beijing. Even before the race started, there was a significant amount of UCI- and China-bashing. Much of it was warranted. However, it was disappointing to see certain media agencies attempt to discredit the Tour of Beijing entirely. As an optimist, I trust there will be an easing of restrictions on public access to the race. I also believe more people in China will either begin to actively participate in cycling for leisure and sport or, at the very least, engage in multi-channel conversation about cycling – particularly its environmental and social benefits – therefore nurturing the seed that has been left. Regardless of who left it or how.
STAGE 5 RESULTS (Top 10)
GALIMZYANOV Denis 118km in 2.19:44
HAEDO Juan Jose + 0:00
VIVIANI Elia + 0:00
TRENTIN Matteo + 0:00
APPOLLONIO Davide + 0:00
CHICCHI Francesco + 0:00
HAUSSLER Heinrich + 0:00
NIZZOLO Giacomo + 0:00
KRISTOFF Alexander + 0:00
HINAULT Sébastien + 0:00
FINAL GENERAL CLASSIFICATION
MARTIN Tony THR in 13.39:11
MILLAR David GRM + 0:17
FROOME Christopher SKY + 0:26
CUMMINGS Stephen SKY + 0:35
KAISEN Olivier OLO + 0:39
SANCHEZ GIL Luis Leon RAB + 0:41
PERAUD Jean Christophe ALM + 0:43.
GRIVKO Andriy AST + 0:43
CATALDO Dario QST + 0:43
TERPSTRA Niki QST + 0:46