Spain’s Beñat Intxausti has a stranglehold on the 2013 Tour of Beijing after taking the stage four win in a spectacular final climb on Mentougou Miaofeng Mountain. The 27-year-old Movistar rider burst away from what remained of the peloton over the final two kilometres to hold off a fast finishing Dan Martin (Garmin Sharp) and a gallant David Lopez (Sky Procycling) to claim a three second advantage. Intxausti was part of the day’s early breakaway and with the addition of 12 bonus seconds on the road, he will hold a 10 second margin for tomorrow’s final stage.
Given the final day is a fast, flat and relatively short 117km, featuring a start at Tian An Men Square before 12 laps of the Olympic precinct at the Bird’s Nest, the overall victory should be secure if the Spaniard remains upright.
“I am really happy this is my first win since the Giro, because the Vuelta didn’t go really well. I am now ending the season very well,” Intxausti explained.
“I am dedicating this victory to Xavi Tondo. He is a very special person to me,” he said, speaking of his friend who died in a tragic accident at home in 2011, when crushed by his garage door. Intxausti was with Tondo at the time of the horrific incident.
Intxausti said the team plan was to put both world champion Rui Costa and himself in contention on the final climb.
“Yes at the start of the day the plan was for Rui Costa and for me, so we had both options. In the last two kilometers, I tried to attack so that I could win the stage. Also, we worked hard to take the bonifications, because they were also important.”
“It was a very close finish; I could see Daniel Martin was very close to me. I went full gas to the end so I could raise my hands with enough time.”
If successful tomorrow his debut WorldTour stage-race win will add to a stage of the Giro d’Italia this year, in what has been a busy one – racing both the Giro and the Vuelta a Espana, along with an eighth place finish at the Tour of the Basque Country.
In a pulsating final stage, which contained three climbs before the final ascent to the top of Miaofeng, four riders worked their way clear at the 29km point. The group contained Intxausti, along with his Movistar teammate Jose Ivan Gutierrez, Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma Quick-Step) and Maurits Lammertink (Vacansoliel – DCM). After the first sprint Intxausti returned to the peloton and the gap grew to two minutes 45 seconds, the biggest margin of the day, as the watchful peloton ensured the gap didn’t extend.
On the first category one climb, three more riders joined the break, with KOM leader Damiano Caruso (Cannondale), Moreno Hofland (Belkin) and Stijn Vandenbergh (Omeg Pharma Quick-Step) joining the fray.
At the foot of the final and decisive climb, the leaders split, leaving Vandenbergh alone, before the rampaging peloton, led by Sky, closed the gap to bring the race together for the final 12km journey to the summit.
With overnight leader Nacer Bouhanni resting his sprinters legs for tomorrow’s final stage, the bunch disintegrated up the mountain as the attacks came. Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol), Marco Pinotti (BMC) and Josh Edmondson (Team Sky) all made attempts to break clear, however none proved successful.
Lopez and Tour de France stage winner Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard) where next to try and secure victory, opening a 20 second gap with 4km remaining. In an exciting finale, Martin could see the danger so helped drag back the leader, but along with Lopez, world champion Rui Costa (Movistar) also briefly looked a likely winner, before his teammate Intxausti made his final push to the summit. With the finish line looming it looked likely that Martin would pinch the win, but the Spaniard prevailed.
Lopez was third, with Costa finishing fourth, six seconds behind the winner, with defending champion and two-time Tour of Beijing winner Tony Martin putting forward a brave defence of his title to finish sixth on the stage, a position he also holds on the general classification, 24 seconds adrift.
Tour of Beijing Stage 4
1. Benat Intxausti (ESP/MOV) 3:43:25
2. Daniel Martin (IRE/GRS) @ :03
3. David Lopez (SPA/SKY) @ :04
4. Rui Costa (POR/MOV) @ :06
5. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) @ :11
General Classification After Stage 4
1. Benat Intxausti (ESP/MOV) 17:11:50
2. Daniel Martin (IRE/GRS) @ :10
3. David Lopez (ESP/SKY) @ :13
4. Rui Costa (POR/MOV) @ :18
5. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) @ :24