Sunday, 7 October 2012

Cyclings Last Crusade: Tour of Beijing 2012

For many today saw the final race of the season in what was a good edition of Paris-Tours and for many cycling fans this one day classic still constitutes the end of their season interest. But there is one more WorldTour bike race left and its a 5 day stage race. Use these five days to treasure the remaining road cycling action of 2012 because when the race end, the mourning for what has been a 'vintage' year in cycle racing will begin. The Tour of Beijing starts on Tuesday...

The Tour of Beijing first appeared on our calendars last year and contrary to the UCI's previous stance that races would have to be established and to prove their worth prior to World Tour licences being handed out, it came straight in as a WorldTour event (there must have been money in this decision) which meant much to the annoyance, at least originally, of many teams and management that all UCI WorldTour registered teams would have to be represented at the race in the far east, leading to an extended season and long distance travel at the end of a tiring year for many riders with tired legs. Putting politics to one side, lets focus on the race.

The route is pretty standard. Spread over five days there are some stages for the sprinters but also a stage or two for the climbers. This isn't alpine though and it's not three weeks long so it is perfectly feasible for a powerful rider with the ability to get up hills to make an impact and even walk away with the overall classification if they race intelligently. Last years winner was Tony Martin - a powerful TT rider with the ability to climb - and this should tell us what we need to know about who is capable of winning this race.

Any winning moves are likely to come on Stages 3 and the final day, stage 5. Stage 3 is a 162km long slog including 4 categorised climbs with a category 3 summit finish of 6.3% average though the road rises gradually upwards for much of the final 25 kilometres. Stage 5 features another four categorised climbs, with the biggest coming in the form of a category 1 climb which is around 5.6km in length with an average gradient of 6%. The summit of this climb is around 30km from the finish and the road in is most downhill which means this climb could be the perfect place to attack for the winning move, especially if the rider is a good descender or TT'er. All of the stage profiles can be found HERE.

Riders lining up at the start this year include the likes of Andy Schleck and Ryder Hesjedal, though don't expect Schleck to feature in the general classification as he is returning from injury and isn't looking to do anything other than get some race miles in the legs until 2013. Hesjedal though has stated he's looking to round his season off with a win to add to his Giro d'Italia win earlier this year. Other names that could feature in the GC are Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen, Omega Pharma's Tony Martin who will be looking to retain his title and up and coming Moreno Moser of Liquigas who I suspect may look to consolidate his season as neo-pro with another victory in what has been a good year for the genetically blessed Italian. Interestingly Euskaltel-Euskadi are taking an astonishingly strong team to Beijing, featuring Samuel Sanchez, Mikel Nieve and Igor Anton who looked to be coming into good form during the Vuelta a Espana leading me to suspect the Basque team will be coming here for nothing short of the overall classification in mind and with such strong climbers I can certainly see them succeeding here...

The Tour of Beijing certainly will not float everyone's boat but it is the last chance to grab some televised cycling before the long dark months set in and the off-season blues finally take a firm grip on all of us...

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