The inaugural Tour of Beijing, the penultimate round of the UCI World Tour marks the first foray of the top tier of the sport in Asia. After a successful 2008 Olympic Games, the UCI’s event organisation body, the GCP put in place plans to host an event in Beijing, and the fruition of those efforts are now being realised.
Despite concerns over a potential boycott of the race still circulating as late as August, in protest against the UCI’s stance on race radios, an agreement to defer any decision on the matter has appeared to appease the teams, and we can now focus on the racing.
The UCI’s new points system has added an extra level of intensity to the closing events of the season with AG2R principal Vincent Lavenu, recently commenting that he had been forced to send a full strength team to China to maximize the team’s chances of participation in the WorldTour in 2012.
Several other teams are taking the Tour of Beijing very seriously, with a quality field including Samuel Sanchez and Igor Anton Hernandez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), David Millar (Garmin-Cervelo), Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Chris Froome (Sky), Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD), Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack), Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R) all in attendance.
Like the Santos Tour Down Under, the Tour of Beijing will also be inviting a national team, with eight Chinese riders to compete against the world’s best over the five days.
The Tour opens with an 11.7km time trial that departs from the famous ‘Birds Nest Olympic Stadium’ around the Olympic village, and finishing at the Water Cube. It is a pancake flat course, and will be the perfect opportunity for new time trial world champion Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) to show off his new rainbow bands.
The second stage sees riders race a short 60km out to Men Tou Gou, before 4 laps of a hilly 21km circuit to total 137km. It should favour an escape, but with a nice little ramp at the finish, don’t be surprised to see a puncheur like Samuel Sanchez make their mark early.
The Queen stage, the second longest day of racing at 162km, features three category 1 climbs and a category 2 which starts just 15.5km into the day’s stage. The combination of the Xiezishi and Erpuliang climbs in the final 30 kilometres will be the best opportunity for the general classification riders to create time gaps, though a downhill finish in Yong Ning may somewhat nullify any gains.
Stages 4 and 5 suit sprints, and with no major climbs on either day, look for Theo Bos (Rabobank), Juan José Haedo (Saxo Bank Sungard), Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) or Leigh Howard (HTC-Highroad) to pick up a win in Beijing to close out their seasons on a high.
The 1st Tour of Beijing
Stage 1 - Oct 5 Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium - Water Cube (ITT) 11.3 km
Stage 2 - Oct 6 Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium - Men Tou Gou 137 km
Stage 3 - Oct 7 Men Tou Gou - Yong Ning Town 162 km
Stage 4 - Oct 8 Yan Qing Gui Chuan Square - Shunyi Olympic Rowing/Canoeing Centre 189.5 km
Stage 5 - Oct 9 Tian An Men Square - Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium 118 km