With the Tour de France peloton enjoying a rest day today, the brief pause in play provided the ideal opportunity for the potential "next big thing" to raise its flag and affirm its claim on its granted WorldTour status; that race being the 2011 Tour of Beijing.
For many years it was assumed that the Tour de Langkawi would become the first Asian bike race to be awarded the highly prestigious WorldTour status, as it had pioneered high-end racing on the continent for many years. Then came the Tour of Qinghai Lake, one of the toughest races on the Asian calendar; but it was not to be.
Instead the honour was awarded to the "new kid on the block", the Tour of Beijing, which will take place around China's capital city between October 5-9 this year.
There's no doubting that China is fast becoming a world sporting power, and slowly but surely Chinese cyclists are also rising to the challenge, especially on the track and in the dust of the mountain bike fields. The country also greatly raised its profile as a sporting host following the successful staging of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Slotted neatly between the World Road Race Championships and the end of season Classics, the 5-day Tour of Beijing is sure to attract its fair share of the cream of the WorldTour riders, as many sponsors have distinct trading "yens" towards the rapidly opening markets of China, and will be determined to make an impression in this showcase event.
The race will start and finish from the iconic Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium, with the opening stage taking the form of an 11.3km individual time trial. The opening test against the clock takes place on a flat course, but which is potentially long enough to shade the overall GC for the race.
From here the field takes on a rolling opening road stage, which has three 4th category climbs along the way, although they are unlikely to cause too much disruption in the overall standings.
The crunch is likely to come on stage 3 of the race, a 162km stage between Men Tau Gou and Yong Ning. This leg features three 1st category climbs and one 2nd category climb. Although none of the climbs top 800 metres in altitude two of them rise inside the final quarter of the race, which should open things up some.
The penultimate stage of the race is a lumpy but predominantly fast stage, which leads back to the outskirts of Beijing.
The final stage takes the riders from the historically tragic Tian An Men Square along flat roads back to finish at the Bird's Nest, making for an ideal puncheurs race, which will be seen as many as great preparation for the impending Tour of Lombardy in Italy on October 15.
2011 Tour of Beijing
October 5 - Stage 1: Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium- Water Cube individual time trial, 11.3km
October 6 - Stage 2: Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium - Men Tau Gou, 133.5km
October 7 - Stage 3: Men Tau Gou - Yong Ning, 162km
October 8 - Stage 4: Yanquin Gui Chuan Square - Shunyi Olympic Rowing/Canoeing Centre, 189.5km
October 9 - Stage 5: Tian An Men Square - Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium, 118km
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