World Champion Tony Martin wins prologue but Britain have four riders in top 10
The first stage of the inaugural Tour of Beijing was honoured in the best possible manner, with the reigning world champion prevailing in today’s opening time trial. HTC-Highroad’s Tony Martin was simply superior, just as he had been in Copenhagen two weeks ago.
Martin’s prize was a place in cycling trivia history as the first stage winner of a UCI WorldTour event in Asia and the reward of wearing the leader’s red jersey into tomorrow’s first road stage. He celebrated his first opportunity both to wear the rainbow jersey and to race in China with an emphatic 17 second victory over former world championship silver medallist David Millar, recording 13mins 33secs to Millar’s 13:50.
“It is my first time ever in China and it is a big honour to win the first ever stage in the Tour of Beijing,” Martin said. “I decided a long time before (I won the world championship) to come here. I wanted to be one time in China. For me it is not about the victory, it’s about being here for this nice race.”
But the task was not without its challenges. Not only did he have the pressure of wearing the world champion’s jersey for the first time, but like all riders, Martin had to adjust to time trialling on a road bike. “It is a different position and a different feeling. The time trial bike is also more stiff. But I was just trying to find a good way over a short distance,” the stage-winner said.
And Martin does not dismiss his chances of retaining the leader’s red jersey until the Tour’s conclusion on Sunday. “I have a lot of motivation for a good race and we will now try to defend the jersey. I hope tomorrow is not too hard. I should be okay. I think it is more for the sprinters.”
This is a scenario that the other teams had feared pre-race – Tony Martin with a good lead in the time trial and a team determined to defend it from then on. But at least one other team, Sky Pro Cycling, finds itself in a reasonable position, and with options, after the first day’s racing. One of the more impressive rides on stage one came from one of its younger rider. Alex Dowsett, who turned 23 just two days ago, turned in a time of 13:57 for the 11.3km circuit and held the lead for well over an hour until Millar bested him by seven seconds, with just ten riders left on the course.
Dowsett consequently wears the white jersey for the best young rider but it is the presence of his team mates, Vuelta e Espana runner-up Chris Froome and Stephen Cummings in fourth and fifth spots on general classification that provides Sky with the chance to attack Martin.
It is a flexibility not available to many other teams, for despite the relatively short distance of today’s opening stage, the gaps are already significant, with more than two-thirds of the field already more than one minute adrift of the leader. Dowsett was pleased with his own result and certainly open to the suggestion that his team may still have a big role to play in the Tour.
“Coming third to Tony Martin and David Millar is a pretty good result and I can be proud of that,” Dowsett said. “We will now sit down tonight and talk about it. We have three riders in the top five and obviously no other team has that. We will take it on and see what we can do.”
With it widely recognised that stages two, four and five being sprint stages, it means that HTC-Highroad only has to control the race on the much hillier stage three, within the 17 second buffer Martin has established, to win the Tour.
1. MARTIN Tony THR GER 13’33″63 00″
2. MILLAR David GRM GBR 13’50″10 17″
3. DOWSETT Alex SKY GBR 13’57″22 24″
4. FROOME Christopher SKY GBR 13’59″90 26″
5. CUMMINGS Stephen SKY GBR 14’08″48 35″
6. BOOM Lars RAB NED 14’09″97 36″
7. KAISEN Olivier OLO BEL 14’12″35 39″
8. SANCHEZ GIL Luis Leon RAB ESP 14’14″64 41″
9. PERAUD Jean Christophe ALM FRA 14’16″34 43″
10. CATALDO Dario QST ITA 14’16″72 ‘ ‘