The final day of the tour is always a bit special starting on Tiananmen Square and finishing between the Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest in the Olympic Park. It’s big deal for the riders and their family and friends and the weather cooperated with bright blue skies and sunshine.
Rui Costa smiling with team mates at the start line.
Orica Green Edge riders at the start line.
I headed down to Tiananmen and was lucky enough to speak some of the riders including Panda favourite Dan Martin. Along with a couple of friends we cycled up to the Olympic Park after the race started to watch the final sprint and the conclusion of the race.
Luka Mezgec battling it out with Nacer Bouhanni for the final stage of the 2013 Tour of Beijing
So who were the winners of this year’s Tour of Beijing
Stage One: Thor Hushovd
Stage Two: Nacer Bouhanni
Stage Three: Nacer Bouhanni
Stage Four : Benat Intxausti
Stage Five: Luka Mezgec
First: Benat Intxausti
Second : Dan Martin
Third: David Lopez
Team : BMC
KOM : Damiano Caruso
Points : Nacer Bouhanni
Young Rider: Romain Bardet
Chinese Rider: Ji Chen
Panda Jersey Winner: Hayden Roulston
So what about the bigger picture, well Dan Martin now has a big following in Beijing following the Panda Corner antics, but the big winners and losers are cycling fans.
The queen stage of this years Tour with a mountain top finish at Miaofengshan was superb, a great stage and some really exciting racing and the where the red jersey (overall winner of the race) was decided. I have to say I was a bit disappointed that Dan Martin couldn’t quite overtake Intxausti on the final climb but it was a really great spectacle. Dan himself really wanted to win the race and talking to him on Tiananmen square on the final day said he gave it everything and couldn’t even pedal over the line! He just came up a little short. It was a brilliant stage but it could have been so much better on a weekend with crowds of people.
Having the stage a weekday made for great viewing on Youtube, BTV or any of the other channels that were streaming the race. But if you want to spark an interest in cycling in China you need to inspire people and get them to be part of the race cheering on the Chinese and the international cyclists. Sadly most of the people watching the tour on the course were policeman and the army, which isn’t exactly conducive for the small numbers of fans who do turn up to try and watch the race only to be told to stand back by the police. I can understand why the police don’t want to be responsible for anything that may happen which could disrupt the race but it’s frustrating to see empty roads and just a few people cheering on the riders.
Even at the final stage in the Olympic park with VIP passes we found it VERY difficult to actually access the race course or even find out where the finish line was. The whole race needs to be spectator friendly and encourage people to watch not just on TV/online but also in person and try and create an excitement around cycling. There are dozens of schools in Beijing and I would have thought it would have been a great chance for some of the school kids to be inspired to see an event and possibly even meet some riders. I’m sure some competitions could have been held and the prize for the winning school to have a day out have photos with the riders and try and recapture the love of bikes and cycling which the Chinese seem to have lost over the last two decades.
For me the lasting memory I’ll have of the race is Panda Corner it was a big win and it’s something that the riders really enjoyed talking to them at the after part at Serk. I think it has the potential, if done properly, to really elevate the interest of cycling and the Tour of Beijing in China. There’s nothing the Chinese love more than the Panda and to have a recognisable symbol for supporting the race is essential if you are going to attract local Chinese fans who may not understand the history or cycling culture that exists in Europe. I think Panda corner will be key to attracting a new generation of cycling fans who will come out and ride to the stages and enjoy a day out watching the Tour of Beijing.