Edvald Boasson Hagen got his Tour of Beijing campaign off to a solid start with third in the sprint finish on stage one.
The Norwegian champion was in the thick of the action on the final lap in China as the final pro stage race of the season kicked off in the shadow of the Olympic Park.
Team Sky arrived at the front of peloton as a unit having moved up as the race crossed the line for the bell lap. Alex Dowsett hit the front and even went clear briefly after his acceleration opened up some daylight.
At the finish it was Elia Viviani who timed his sprint to perfection, the Italian (Liquigas-Cannondale) finding a gap on the left-hand side of the road to edge out his rivals to claim the early leader’s jersey.
Brit Andy Fenn (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) continued his impressive debut season with second place ahead of Boasson Hagen, who was led out by team-mate Chris Sutton following a relatively straightforward opening stage. Boasson Hagen now sits fourth overall, six seconds off the lead after picking up time bonifications on the line.
The race kicked off with a brief run from the ceremonial start in Tian An Men Square over onto the circuit which would form the day’s stage.
It wasn’t long before the action got under way and it was Craig Lewis (Champion System) who kicked clear as the race hit the 7.8km Bird’s Nest circuit.
The experienced American was joined by four more riders to share the workload, the move gaining a shade over two minutes but never any more on a short opener.
Orica-GreenEDGE and Liquigas-Cannondale were among the teams giving chase, each looking to set up their respective sprinters on the pan-flat but windy course.
With the break never too far out of their sight the day was always destined to end in a bunch sprint as new teams hit the front in the closing stages to set things up – Viviani emerging victorious.
Despite a depleted squad in terms of numbers Sports Director Marcus Ljungqvist was happy with the team’s start with some bonus second in the bag for Boasson Hagen.
“It was a good start from Eddy and a good sprint to take a few bonus seconds on the line,” he confirmed.
“We are feeling the lack of riders but it just means that we have to play it a bit smarter in how we approach the race.
“Edvald is feeling good and is going well. The rest of the guys are in good shape too. Luke has been feeling a bit sick but he got through the stage fine and we’re hoping he will be back to 100 per cent again tomorrow.”