The Tour of Beijing celebrated its first ever stage on Wednesday. The opening time trial was affected slightly by smog and the government’s policing.

“You don’t think about [the smog] in the race, but when you stop, you realise just how much your lungs are burnt,” Nicolas Roche told Cycling Weekly. “Feels like smoking cigarettes? Probably, and a lot of them.”

The first stage, a time trial, travelled around the Olympic Park just north of the city centre. Smog, which has thickened over the last two days, is similar to what was seen at the 2008 Olympic Games in the city.

Tony Martin won the 11.3 kilometre opening time trial stage at an average of 50 km/h, compared to the longer 46.4 kilometre course and 51.8 km/h he achieved to win the World Championships time trial in Copenhagen in September.

“I felt it more so yesterday than today,” Alex Dowsett said. “I think it was because yesterday [in training] was the first time that I did an effort in it.”

From the iconic Bird’s nest Olympic stadium, buildings further away seemed to be fading or were completely greyed out.

“It makes breathing pretty hard,” added Jack Bobridge. “We are all breathing the same air, though, is the same playing field.”

“I grew up in Hong Kong,” David Millar explained. “I love the Far East and I guess I have that advantage in that all this doesn’t bother me. It’s my natural habitat!”

As the race travels north for the next stages, conditions will improve. However, back in Beijing for Sunday’s stage from Tian’anmen Square, the smog will return.

Security is expected to be just as heavy over the next days, especially on Sunday in Tian’anmen Square, site of the 1989 anti-government protests. Police shut down the surrounding area and required fans to pass through metal detectors on Wednesday.

Only a limited number of fans, though, were allowed to get near the course as it seems the government is worried about large gatherings. It is a reminder that the cyclists are in a communist state where social networking websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are blocked.

“I haven’t seen many [fans] yet because we’ve been in our hotel and we’re kind of in the middle of nowhere,” Millar said. “It seemed like there was some good cheering out there from what I could hear.”

The stage tomorrow travels north of the city and towards the Great Wall, to Mentougou.

Related links

Tour of Beijing stage one: Martin holds off British charge to win Beijing time trial

Tour of Beijing: A step forward for cycling?

Team Sky get ready for Tour of Beijing

  • YeeLing

    There are a LOT of cycling fans in Beijing, numerous groups do rides every weekend anywhere from 100 to 300+ kms. There are also quite a number of amature races organized by grass root or commercial entities. The tour of Beijing was a big excitement in the cycling community, people are really interested. The reason for lack of fans showing during the race was because of the governement didn’t allow us to watch. I am a 45 year old cycling fan in Beijing with a Giant road bike, a Specialized road bike and a Trek mountain. I arrived 3 hours earlier to the Great Wall climb, only to be driven away by police about 1 hour before the race arrived. I was mad but when think about it afterwards, the government was paranoid the someone might dash out on the race course at the wrong time and cause injuries so they adopted the “no spectator” policy. Hope it will get better over the next sevearl years.

  • fred58

    Must be the same cops that policed the Archer Grand Prix into oblivion!!

  • kenny79

    no mate groups of three or more on the street together was what was banned in queensland australia
    in the PROGRESSIVE joh b JOKEY petersen era /famous for brown paper bags full of dodgy money and
    wot not
    good time to be riding a bike too (NOT)
    seems like the chinese at least dont mind admitting they are motivated by GET RICH QUICK PAL ?WE ONLY HAVE ONE CHANCE THEN !!!!! arthur from minder in blighty would be proud of this lot

  • Ken Evans

    Just as well the race is at the end of the season,
    after the worlds, and riders can damage their lungs,
    and have time to recover before the real races next season.

  • Eric

    “It seemed like there was some good cheering out there from what I could hear.” Yeah Dave that was the locals being dragged off for forming a group of 3 or more. 🙁