The world's highest stage race, China's Tour of Qinghai Lake, will this year celebrate its tenth edition, held from July 15 to 24.
Held on the Tibetan plateau at an altitude between 1800 to 3300 metres, the inaugural winner was American Tom Danielson in 2002, followed by Damiano Cunego, who made the trip with the Italian national team the year before his magical 2004 season in which he won the Giro d'Italia and the Tour of Lombardy and was crowned world's number one cyclist.
The organisation of the Tour of Qinghai Lake yesterday hosted a forum of international experts, including UCI commissaires Martin Bruin, Michael Robb and Bill Clinch, to discuss plans to make the race bigger and better in the future.
The Tour of Qinghai Lake is one of the three Asian stage races classified Hors Category by the UCI, alongside Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia and the Tour of Hainan, also in China.
"In the past, our province of Qinghai was often confused with the town of Qingdao in the Shandong province," said Luo Yi Lin, the Vice Governor of Qinghai. "But now, thanks to this race, our province is well known and has attracted more tourists and investors. We wish to increase the reputation of our province even more, especially outside China."
To show the sustainability of the event, race organisers are building a museum of the Tour of Qinghai Lake at the Duoba National Highlander Sports Training Base, located 25km from the province's capital, Xining.
"It's under construction," explained Feng Jianping, director general of Qinghai Sports Bureau. "We plan to open it in October and we hope to receive donations like jerseys from our past winners. We also intend to invite all of them and their coach or relative to attend the celebrations of our tenth anniversary in July.
"A cycling expo and a charity ride will be added to our list of events. We are also working on extending our international media coverage and on a deal with national network CCTV to broadcast the Tour of Qinghai Lake before the Tour de France."
The route of the tenth Tour of Qinghai Lake will be unveiled in the middle of March and the participation of European-based teams, including some ProTeams is expected. The high altitude of the Qinghai province is promoted by the organisers as an opportunity for riders to prepare for the Vuelta a España, starting on August 20.