Butler In The Lead Group; Jiao Best Chinese Rider On Stage 3
Chris Butler finished in a team-best 26th place Thursday for the Champion System Pro Cycling Team on the Tour of Beijing's queen stage.
In the shadow of the Badaling Great Wall, Butler rode with the leaders up the last of four categorized climbs to finish only 16 seconds behind Stage 3 winner Francesco Gavazzi (Astana Pro Team). It was a far different ride over the 162.5 kilometer stage than when the team performed reconnaissance of the stage in January, Butler said.
"When we did it in training camp, we had on like 12 layers of clothing," he said. "It was the coldest bike ride I've done in all of 2012. But we did recon the entire ride, so it all came back. Looking back now, I probably should have tried something risky with four kilometers to go. But I just held on as well as I could."
After Butler, fellow American Craig Lewis was next for Champion System in 40th (at 53 seconds), while Pengda Jiao took home "Best Chinese Rider" honors on the day for his 44th place result, 1:19 behind.
"It was a difficult climbing stage, especially the last climb," Pengda said. "I was on form, though and did my best climbing of the season today."
An aggressive start and extremely fast pace kept the team from making a seven-man breakaway that gained a maximum 3:45 lead before being caught with 10 km to go, Champion System General Manager Ed Beamon said. In the overall standings, defending champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) has a 40-second lead over Gavazzi with two days of the race to go.
"Overall, I'm pretty happy with how things went today," he said. "The long term goal was to give Butler a shot at the finish and it sounds like he was able to stay in good position. Pengda and Gang Xu both had a good ride at the finish – Pengda, especially. It was just that last little rise before the descent about two kilometers out that he lost contact with the group."
Friday's stage is 165.5 km with more than 30 kilometers of downhill to the finish after the last of three categorized climbs.