What began as a routine training ride turned into a harrowing and dangerous journey through a howling sandstorm in Beijing.
Initial reports out of Beijing indicate that riders from the Garmin-Cervelo and Liquigas-Cannondale team were lost for several hours during the vicious sandstorm.
Chinese police and security forces eventually located the riders and returned them to their hotels. However, rumors persist that Slovakian star Peter Sagan of Liquigas is still missing.
“We fear the worst but we are trying to remain calm,” said Liquigas director sportif Stefano Zanetta. “The sand and dust were terrible. One moment Peter was riding beside his brother Juraj and then he disappeared.”
The Chinese capital is often victim of intense sandstorms and the riders where caught on the outskirts of the city. The yellow dust reduced visibility and air quality to hazardous levels.
“It was terrifying out there. Honestly, I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face,” said David Millar. “The wind came up so fast and then it was chaos.” Millar apparently marshaled his riders together and found shelter in a garment factory off Zhongzhou Road.
Liquigas Cannondale was not so lucky. “You cannot imagine it. It was like a storm in the desert,” said Daniel Oss. “I lost my way and starting shouting but none of my teammates could hear me over the roar of the wind. I found Viviani under a parked car. It was insane.”
Chinese officials insist that all riders have been rescued but according to Zanetta, Sagan has yet to return. “He is mentally tough — he can handle this. But obviously, he does not speak Chinese. We are hopeful that the lime green jersey will make it easier to find him,” said a visibly shaken Zanetta.
Garmin boss Jonathan Vaughters tried to put a positive spin on the shocking dust storm. “These guys are used to riding in bad weather. At the end of the day, it’s just dust. But I’m glad I’m not riding this race,” said Vaughters, wearing a surgical mask over his face.