Stage five’s breakaway pairing at the Tour of Beijing came frustratingly close to victory, and for either man it could have been the biggest triumph of their career.
For FDJ.fr domestique Laurent Mangel it would have meant winning the biggest race of his life on the final day of his 10-year professional career. When he made the break on the final stage of the Tour of Beijing, it was simply to get the camera on him to deliver a message to his daughter Luna, that he was on the way home for good.
But when the peloton let the gap grow to almost unmanageable proportions on the pan flat 117km stage he and his breakaway companion Tosh Van Der Sande (Lotto-Belisol) suddenly had a chance to ride for a win neither of them thought was in the offing.
The pair fought hard, but with 300m to go they were swallowed by a peloton, which was in turn led home by Lampre-Merida’s Sacha Modolo.
“I’ve got mixed feelings about today,” said Mangel after being named the day’s most combative rider. “The first goal was to get in the front so that I could show the TV my note, but then when we went around the fourth lap we thought maybe we could win.
“So by the end I was disappointed – I really thought I could have won. I dug so deep – more than usual – and that also makes it even more disappointing.”
He may not have taken the stage but he was ushered into retirement with a warm send off from his teammates. This morning, at the start in Tiananmen Square, the FDJ.fr squad paid homage to him with his name written on t-shirts and a tribute at sign on.
Meanwhile 23-year-old Van Der Sande, was also ruing what could have been. After a win-studded career in the espoir ranks, he joined the Lotto outfit as a stagiaire in 2011 and has been hunting his first full pro win ever since.
“I’m disappointed, but that’s racing,” he said. “Normally it’s useless when there are two guys in the break but when you’re in it, you have to try. In the beginning we were riding really easy and so was the bunch.
“At one moment we had 1:30 over a good distance to hold on to, so we tried. Mangel was a little bit tired at the end. I was accelerating a little bit every time, but he dropped the speed a little bit. He did his best. When we entered that last lap I really thought this was my chance but now I’ll have to wait until next year,” added Van Der Sande.