Ten months on from making its debut WorldTour appearance at the Tour Down Under, Bahrain-Merida will close its inaugural season at the first edition of the Tour of Guangxi. Team leader Vincenzo Nibali will ride the Taiwan KOM Challenge on Friday and so Bahrain-Merida has selected squad capable of challenging for stage wins at the Tour of Guangxi.
The team also has the only Chinese rider in the Guangxi peloton with Meiyin Wang selected for the race. On the eve of the race, Bahrain-Merida's sports director Philippe Mauduit explained to Cyclingnews that Wang would be given opportunities to impress via breakaways.
"It is difficult for him to have the ambition to win a stage but he is in his home country," Mauduit said. "He is the only Chinese here in the race and it is important, at least for him, but it would also be good for the team if he can go in some breakaway and show the jersey, show himself and have fun front of his public."
The 28-year-old, who turned professional with the Trek–Marco Polo team in 2009, has won stages of the Tour of Langkawi and Tour of China I but is yet to taste success at the WorldTour. Starting his season with the Tour of Oman, Wang rode the majority of the spring classics through to the Tour of Romandie. Since April, Wang has had a light schedule but returned to racing in the Italian autumn races.
Wang isn't the team's only card for the race with Italian sprint duo Sonny Colbrelli and Niccolò Bonifazio to be given support in their bid for stage wins. However, with the late date of the race, Mauduit is unsure what level to expect of the sprint field in Guangxi.
"We go with Sonny and Niccolò for stage wins," Mauduit said. "It is a little bit difficult to know exactly what we will be able to do here because when it is the end of the season most of the time the riders have lighter training we would say. We will see how on the road how it goes to be smart and to do something."
While the race is tilted towards sprinters and opportunities, the stage four summit finish to NongLa Scenic Spot, albeit only a few kilometres in length, is well suited to the capabilities of Slovenian Janez Brajkovic. The 33-year-old has primarily ridden as a domestique in his sole season with Bahrain-Merida but as Mauduit explains, he will be given support in his final race with the team for a general classification bid.
"Jani will not be in the team next year so he will have a kind of free card," he said. "Especially for the hardest stage which finishes with five kilometres uphill. We will give him the freedom because we can do it. He was working the whole year for the others so he can have that freedom for his last race."