Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) had to dig deep during stage 4 on Mentougou Miaofeng Mountain to keep Dan Martin in his sights and the Tour of Beijing race lead tightly in his grasp. The Belgian Classics specialist was expected to hand over the jersey he took control of on day two, at the end of the day - in fact he thought he had lost it and had a tense wait to find out he’d done enough to stay ahead of the Garmin-Sharp rider.
“It was a very hard climb,” Gilbert said at the finish. “I did everything on the big chain ring and when I can climb like this it is easier for me because I can use my power. At the end it was like a big sprint but I thought, it’s the last big effort of the season so you can go even deeper than normal, so I found extra motivation.”
With Gilbert’s race lead to protect, BMC were very active throughout the penultimate stage. As he did in Lombardia just a week before, and has been doing for much of the season, Samuel Sánchez ensured a fast pace onto the final climb. The Spaniard delivered his team leader to the top of Mentougou Miaofeng perfectly. Gilbert praised the whole team, Sanchez in particular.
"We did a great job as a team, first controlling the breakaway and then afterwards I told the guys that I like it when we ride a steady tempo. That’s why they set a nice speed, not too fast, just perfect,” Gilbert explained. “Dominic did it, then Tejay and then Samuel did a great job at the end. I’m very thankful for what he’s done for me the whole season. He’s been there for almost every win that I’ve had this season.”
Gilbert’s sprint to third earned him four bonus seconds, keeping him just three seconds ahead of Martin. With no climbs on the final stage through the centre of Beijing, Gilbert is expected to hold onto the red jersey. Time bonus will be available in the sprints but the Belgian should be able to match the two climbers behind him in the GC – Martin and Esteban Chaves. Gilbert is optimistic that he can win but knows that anything can happen in bike racing.
"Three seconds is not much, but it is better to have an advantage than to be behind. I hope not to have a technical problem tomorrow. Let's cross our fingers that the race can go like normal tomorrow and that I can win the general classification."