As another proof of the rapid development of cycling in China, an expanded Tour of Taihu will make the 2011 road season longer than usual. The event was held in the Jiangsu province for the first time last year and has expanded to a five-day stage race in 2011, to complement the recent Tour of Hainan.
“We’ve upgraded to a stage race under the name of the geographic specificity of our province, which is the Taihu Lake,” explained Deputy Director of Jiangsu Sports Administration Zhou Xu. “Our province hosts 160 national or international sports events yearly but we’re having such a large scale cycling event for the first time.”
Taihu means “big lake” in mandarin. The 109 participants have already enjoyed the landscapes and the facilities for training in the area without any need of motorised escort.
20 teams are lining up, half of them being chinese: Tabriz (Iran), Arbö (Austria), Jelly Belly (USA), V-Australia (Australia), ASC Dukla Praha (Czech Rep), TT Raiko 18 Argon and Nutrixxion (Germany), Giant-Kenda (Taiwan), Champion System and China Hong Kong (Hong Kong), Qinghai-Tianyoude, China 361°, Holy Brother, Max Success, Chila Jilun, Hengxiang, the national teams from China, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, as well as the provincial team of hosts Jiangsu
The flat course is said to suit the sprinters although crosswinds are expected. Multiple Tour of China stage winner Boris Shpilevski from Tabriz will be watched closely for his farewell to the Asia Tour prior to joining the World Tour with Ag2r-La Mondiale in 2012. Jelly Belly’s Charles Huff who geared up at the Sun Tour and the Japan Cup is another favourite alongside V-Australia’s Aaron Kemps who is no stranger to success in Chinese races. In the Ukrainian national team, experienced sprinter Yuriy Metlushenko will receive an interesting support from Ruslan Pidgorny who rode the Tour of Spain with Vacansoleil-DCM and came fourth in stage 3.
The riders’ interest for international races on the Asia Tour like the Tour of Taihu has recently received a huge boost by the signing of continental performers Mehdi Sohrabi for Lotto-Ridley, Shpilevski, Amir Zargari and Grega Gazvoda for Ag2r-La Mondiale.
The stages of the 2011 Tour of Taihu
Stage 1, Nov. 1: Wuxi Binhu Criterium, 130.3km
Stage 2, Nov. 2: Wuzhon, Suzhou-Gaoxin, Suzhou, 104.5km
Stage 3, Nov. 3: Criterium of Kunchenghu Lake, Changshu, 136km (17km x 8)
Stage 4, Nov. 4: Xuxiake Town, Jiangyin-Wujin, Changzhou, 98.7km
Stage 5, Nov. 5: Wujin, Changzhou-Yixing, 96.7km