Sprint finishes have decided three of four stages of the Tour of Beijing and today’s victory for Team Katusha’s Marco Haller was another ‘full gas’ conclusion.
The 21-year-old Austrian saw off the challenge of Italian sprint sensations young and old to finish ahead of Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) and Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) and seal his first victory in cycling’s elite WorldTour.
Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) retained his position at the top of the general classification but will have to remain vigilant on tomorrow’s mountainous final stage to clinch overall victory and defend his Tour of Beijing title.
The German holds a 50-second advantage over third-placed Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) but the in-form Irish rider, who leads the king of the mountains competition, will be favoured to go well over a demanding 182.5km from Changping Stadium to Pineggu Centenary Square.
The parcourse includes four categorised climbs, including the ascent of the first category Si Zou Lou, less than 30km from the finish.
A sharp descent to the finish line might protect any riders strong enough to go clear over the summit, but the squads of the respective Martins will do all they can to prevent such an occurrence.
Britian’s Team Sky enjoyed another lively day, with Alex Dowsett perhaps seeking refuge from the storm provoked by his comments on Lance Armstrong in the cut and thrust of racing.
The British national time trial champion escaped early on the stage as part of a five-strong group, but was swept up with his cohorts with 15km to go. Jeremy Roy (FDJ-Big Mat) continued alone but was caught before the denouement.
Team Sky’s day was partly saved by Edvald Boasson Hagen who notched his third top-10 finish of the race and is now fourth overall, 52 seconds behind Martin.
Team Sky’s directeur sportif, Marcus Ljungqvist, said he was satisfied with his squad’s performance.
Dowsett had been told to save energy once it became clear the breakaway would fail, he revealed, and Boasson Hagen had been pleased to remain upright after almost tangling with Klaas Lodewyck (BMC Racing) on the line.
“As for the race situation, we are all still motivated to produce a strong ride tomorrow because we don’t have a stage win yet and there’s still plenty to fight for in the overall standings,” he added.
Tour of Beijing stage four – result
1) Marco Haller (AUT) – Katusha – 3.35.39
2) Alessandro Petacchi (ITA) – Lampre-ISD
3) Elia Viviani (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale
4) Lucas Sebastian Haedo (ARG) – Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
5) Daniele Bennati (ITA) – RadioShack-Nissan
6) Francesco Chicchi (ITA) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
7) Klaas Lodewyck (BEL) – BMC Racing
8) Allan Davis (AUS) – Orica GreenEdge
9) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Team Sky
10) Dominique Rollin (CAN) – FDJ-Big Mat
1) Tony Martin (GER) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 13.11.31
2) Francesco Gavazzi (ITA) – Astana +40”
3) Daniel Martin (IRL) – Garmin-Sharp +50”
4) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Team Sky +52”
5) Eros Capecchi (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale
6) Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA) – AG2R-La Mondiale +56”
7) Tomasz Marczynski (POL) – Vacansoleil-DCM
8) Rafal Majka (POL) – Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
9) Rui Da Costa (POR) – Movistar +1.00
10) Tim Wellens (BEL) – Lotto Belisol Team