This year’s Tour of Beijing will be its swansong, with the UCI announcing that it would not renew the contract it has with the organisers. The race has been embroiled in controversy since its inception in 2011, but they will be looking to go out on a positive note when the race reaches the Bird’s nest stadium on Tuesday 14 October.
After much to-ing and fro-ing, Alberto Contador and Alejandro will not face-off for victory in the WorldTour ranking here. However, the fourth and final edition of the Tour of Beijing has still attracted some big riders who are on the hunt for WorldTour points.
BMC have put forward a strong team to tackle both the overall classification and stage victories, as they target second in the team rankings. Tejay van Garderen will head up their GC hopes with help from 2008 Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez. The Spaniard will provide some sturdy support for van Garderen and gives BMC a plan b if the American has a bad day. Philippe Gilbert also makes the trip to China.
Newly crowned Il Lombardia champion Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) comes back to the race for the third time. He finished second in 2013 and is a strong contender for overall victory this time around. Beñat Intxausti (Movistar) returns to defend his title, while Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) looks to take third in the WorldTour rankings with a good result in Beijing. Two time champion Tony Martin is yet to confirm his participation.
Last year’s final day winner Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) will be battling it out with Ben Swift in the sprints. Young riders Danny van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing), Moreno Hofland (Belkin) and Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) are also targeting stage victories on the flatter days.
For their last hurrah, the organisers have chosen to start a little further out of the city centre than it has in previous years, with stage one beginning far into the Beijing countryside in Chong Li. It features three classified climbs, but should be the opening opportunity for the sprinters to get one on the board. Although with a lot of tired legs at the end of a long season, you can never count out a breakaway victory. Day two should follow much the same format, with a long run in from the final climb at Yan Jia Ping village.
From stage three the race runs almost exactly the same format as it did in 2013. After finishing in Yanqing (a regular feature in the race’s history) the day before, the peloton will ride out from there the following day. Seven climbs separate the riders from the finish line at the Qianjiadian Chao Yang Temple. Last year it ended with a sprint, which was won by Nacer Bouhanni, but a bunch gallop isn’t guaranteed. With 11 kilometres separating the final climb and the line, if a strong break forms here it could be hard to bring them back.
The Queen stage comes on the penultimate day, with the finish on the Mentougou Miaofeng Mountain – which featured for the first time last year. At 12.6 kilometres and an average of 5.7%, it is hard enough to do away with the sprinters, but not a huge challenge for the climbers. If the times gaps coming into the stage are close then the winner should take the overall victory as well.
For the final day, the riders will head to Tiananmen Square for a circuit race around the city centre, finishing in a bunch sprint. Chances are we will see a bunch sprint, but it hasn’t always worked out that way.