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World champion Rui Costa headlines field in China
2012 Tour of Beijing GC podium (L-R): Francesco Gavazzi, 2nd; Tony Martin, 1st; and Edvald Boasson Hagen, 3rd
The 2013 UCI WorldTour will come to a conclusion with the third edition of the Tour of Beijing (Oct. 11-15). The five-day Chinese stage race is the 28th event of the calendar and the only WorldTour race in Asia.
This year's edition promises to be the most difficult yet, highlighted by the first ever mountain finish on stage 4 (150.5km between Yanqing and Mentougou Miaofeng Mountain). After negotiating first, second and third category ascents the stage will conclude with a 12.6km climb to the finish with an average gradient of 5.7 percent. At 1,003 metres, the mountain finish is also the highest elevation the peloton will face throughout the Tour of Beijing.
The five-day event is bookended by a pair of stages likely to end in field sprints, with the final stage, 117km from Tiananmen Square to Bird’s Nest Piazza, the only stage parcours which has appeared in all three editions of the Tour of Beijing.
Stage 2 features four categorised climbs - one third category and three second category - but the final ascent is located 51km from the finish and should again favour the sprinters. Stage 3 will provide a more than ample warm-up to the next day's summit finish as it features rolling terrain for nearly the entire day replete with seven categorised climbs. The finish line is 12km after the final ascent and a sprint from a select group will be likely.
Many of the peloton's stars have already concluded their seasons, but nonetheless there will be a peloton chock full of talent eager to end their year on a high note. While the race lacks a time trial stage, the peloton's sprinters, climbers and rouleurs should all have an opportunity to shine.
For the first time in the Tour of Beijing's young history, the reigning road race world champion will contest the race. After debuting his rainbow kit at Il Lombardia where he rode in support of teammates Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana, Rui Costa will captain the Movistar team in China and based on his palmares earlier this year (second straight Tour de Suisse victory, two stages wins at the Tour de France) is a threat to win overall as well as capture a stage.
With a more challenging route on tap this year, the two-time defending champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) will have a tough time winning his third straight Tour of Beijing title. In 2011 Martin won the opening stage time trial and defended his jersey over the following stages while in 2012 Martin won stage 2 solo and again retained the jersey through to the finale. The three-time time trial world champion has downplayed his chances, but if he's amply motivated he could yet again be a GC factor.
The 2012 Tour of Beijing runner-up finisher and stage 3 winner, Francesco Gavazzi (Astana), returns this year with a strong squad but the 29-year-old Italian has shown his best form earlier in the season. His teammate Simone Ponzi has shown form of late, however, and may be a contender for a victory on stage 3.
Cannondale's hopes will likely lie with sprinter Elia Viviani, who has won a stage in each of the first two editions of the Tour of Beijing. Both the opening and closing stages should suit the fast man while Ivan Basso may be a GC threat depending on his motivation this late in the season.
With a fourth place finish at Il Lombardia and an 11th place result at Milano-Torino, Ireland's Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) has shown good form this late in the season. The 27-year-old Irishman finished 4th overall last year in China and is a threat to win the hillier stages as well as contend for general classification victory. Currently eighth overall on the WorldTour standings, Martin is the highest ranked rider to contest the Tour of Beijing and if he wins overall he would move up to 6th on the standings.
Marco Haller (Katusha), a 22-year-old Austrian sprinter, won his first professional race at last year's Tour of Beijing and will be a threat in any field sprint finales this go round. Other sprinters of note also contesting the Tour of Beijing include Alessandro Petacchi (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Moreno Hofland (Belkin), Thor Hushovd (BMC), Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ), Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida), Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano) and Kenny van Hummel (Vacansoleil-DCM).
Along with Costa and Dan Martin as pre-race GC favourites, riders such as Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Robert Gesink (Belkin), Mathias Frank (BMC) and Richie Porte (Sky) should figure prominently in the GC mix.