Most of the riders who just concluded the Chinese UCI cycling season with the 2.1 Tour of Fuzhou haven't called it a year yet as the newly created Tour of Shanghai is due to take place on Friday and Saturday. The race will be televised live on CCTV and Shanghai 5 Star Sport Channel and the line-up includes Orica-BikeExchange's Cheung King Lok of Hong Kong, Italian sprinter Marco Zanotti and Tour of Colombia winner Mauricio Ortega.
This is the third international bike race organized by Max Success, which also runs Women's WorldTour event the Tour of Chongming Island and the Tour of Fuzhou, as well as three Continental teams (men, women and track) under the name of Giant-Champion System.
"We've been working on this project for three years," Max Success founder Shen Jinkang told Cyclingnews in Pudong New Area. "Shanghai being a city of 24 or 25 million people, it hasn't been easy to negotiate with the different authorities but it has been made possible by a recent decision by China's Central Government to boost sport development. Everything is going fast now, so it is good timing to launch the Tour of Shanghai. Our goal is to present this big, modern and dynamic city to the world. The race is not on the UCI calendar yet but will be as a 2.2 next year and we want to make it a 2.HC event within three years."
Two stages are scheduled for the inaugural event: the Lingang Cup on a 6km circuit to be covered thirteen times in Pudong New Area on Friday and the Caohejing Hi-Tech Park Cup, closer to the centre of the city, with a similar format of racing on Saturday. "In the future, we plan to hold a stage on the Bund, the famous riverside in Shanghai's historical area," Shen said. "It's all flat around the city but in years to come, we'll extend the race to a four-day Tour and we'll go up to 300km away from Shanghai to use some hills in the Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces. Along with these two territories, we belong to the same river: the Yang-Tze."
The man known as "coach Shen" who has also been leading the Hong Kong national team for three decades is adamant that Chinese cycling has a lot to improve in terms of selecting the routes. "Flat racing is boring," he admitted. "But race organizers' main issue when they discuss with local government is safety, so they often had to choose flat roads only but this is changing."
The Tour of Taihu Lake has its first uphill finish this year and the Tour of Fuzhou was very well balanced with different kinds of climbs on the route.
"We also need lumpy courses to develop Chinese riders, which is what everyone wants to see, not only here but also the western world of cycling, which is looking at opening a new market in China," Shen added. "We're glad to see Wang Meiyin joining the WorldTour [with Bahrain-Merida] but more than just one or two Chinese riders are needed to deliver results at the highest level."
Besides the Tour of Shanghai, more Chinese races are expected to join the Tour of Qinghai Lake [which is the oldest event, born in 2002], the Tour of Hainan [since 2006], the Tour of Taihu Lake the Tour of China I and II [since 2010], as well as the Tour of Fuzhou [since 2012] on the UCI calendar in 2017. The 2.2 Tour of Quanzhou Bay (20-22 May) has been added, while races at the end of the season are all yet to be listed by the governing body.
A new end of season WorldTour race is rumoured to be officially announced soon to replace the short-lived Tour of Beijing [2011 to 2014] while there is speculation that the Tour of Poyang Lake will become a UCI event in the wake of organizer Tianjun Sport taking over from Lampre as China's first ever WorldTour team.