Garmin-Sharp has brought extra firepower to the fourth and final edition of the Tour of Beijing in a bid to help Daniel Martin go one better than last year where he was beaten into second place by Beñat Intxausti and a strong Movistar team.
After the pre-race press conference in Chongli, 300km north of Beijing, Martin said the team that included Ryder Hesjedal, Phil Gaimon and Lachlan Morton would hope to visit some payback on Movistar when the race hits the climb to Mentougou Miaofeng on stage 4.
"I was really isolated up that climb last year as there were three of four Movistar guys taking it in terms to attack so hopefully this year hopefully we can try to do the same kind of thing," he said.
The latest Giro di Lombardia winner believes that the team also has an edge: "We're incredibly motivated which is the most important thing - a lot of teams kind of lose their fitness and motivation towards the end of a long hard season, but we're ready to race and ready to go."
However, with Hesjedal showing solid form, the American squad comes with options. Martin said, "[Ryder and I] have had a lot of success together and it's been a bit one way traffic to be honest - he's helped me more than I've helped him but I'd love it if he could win this race and I could help him do that that's be fantastic, but it's a team effort as well and he's the consummate professional. I'm just trying to find a way to pay him back
Whatever Martin's ambitions, he is facing the toughest line-up in the fourth and final edition of the Beijing race - and that's despite the decision of Astana to suspend itself after the Iglinskiy brothers both tested positive for EPO within weeks of each other.
For example Samuel Sanchez, fifth a Lombardy and Tejay Van Garderen lead a powerful BMC racing team that is looking to protect its third place in the UCI ranking. Giant-Shimano split their options between Warren Barguil who clambered into the top 10 at the Vuelta and their sprinters, including Luka Mezgec and Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg, though that pairing will face competition from Sky's Ben Swift, Lampre-Merida's Sacha Modolo and Orica-GreenEdge's Daryl Impey.
Omega Pharma-Quickstep's Rigoberto Uran parried a suggestion he was a GC contender but he still comes at the head of a solid Omega Pharma-QuickStep line-up includes upcoming talents Petr Vakoc and Julian Alaphillippe.
The five-day race starts tomorrow with a 167km stage from Chongli - which as aspiring to host the 2022 winter Olympics - and Zhangjiakou. It's an undulating route but one that is likely to produce a sprint finish.
Sam started as a trainee reporter on daily newspapers in the UK before moving to South Africa where he contributed to national cycling magazine Ride for three years. After moving back to the UK he joined Procycling as a staff writer in November 2010.
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