The Tour of Beijing is the final event in the UCI WorldTour calendar and there’s something of an end of term feel about the Chinese stage race after a long season which started ten months ago with the Tour Down Under in Australia.
Except, that is, for Andy Schleck, who is set to make a long-awaited return to stage race action having fractured his sacrum at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June.
“It’s everyone’s last race of the season and then they can go on holiday. But for me, it’s the beginning of 2013,” said Schleck, who last week abandoned from the one-day Binche-Tournai-Binche in Belgium.
The Tour of Beijing is in its second year and was the first event in Asia to be awarded WorldTour status by the UCI. This year’s five-stage race will run from Tuesday October 9 to Saturday October 13.
Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) won the inaugural race as a HTC-Highroad rider ahead of British duo David Millar (Garmin-Barracuda) and Chris Froome (Team Sky).
The Tour of Beijing route has been overhauled after Martin dominated the inaugural event from start to finish having won the opening time trial, with a number of selective climbs introduced across the race for 2012.
The time trial has been removed from the route, and the race instead starts with a 117km stage which will take the peloton from Tiananmen Square to the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium before 12 laps of an eight kilometre circuit.
The race then heads into the hills for a 126km stage with five categorised climbs but a 50km downhill run to the finish should mean the day’s action, like the first stage, results in a bunch sprint.
The Xi Mountains await on stage three for a 162.5km ride which covers four categorised climbs, including the summit finish up to the Great Wall of China at Badaling.
The penultimate stage rolls into the Jundu Mountains, where three short, sharp category three climbs await before a descent to Changping and a long drag to the finish which could result in another bunch kick.
There’s no let-up on the final stage, which features an early second category climb, before another climb and a brush with the Great Wall ahead of the final category three climb ascent close to the finish.
The more selective route is reflected by the make-up of the start list, with a number of climbers making the trip to China in search of stage wins and success in the general classification.
Nineteen teams and 143 riders will make up the peloton, with a maximum of eight riders per team, although Team Sky are fielding a reduced squad of five owing to fatigue and injuries after a long season.
All-rounder Edvald Boasson Hagen will lead the Team Sky line-up, supported by young British duo Alex Dowsett and Luke Rowe, as well as Italian Salvatore Puccio and Australian Chris Sutton.
Ryder Hesjedal spearheads a versatile Garmin-Barracuda squad, with the Giro d’Italia champion and Irishman Daniel Martin focussing on the GC, and sprinter Heinrich Haussler aiming for stage wins from bunch sprints.
Defending champion Martin returns in an Omega Pharma-QuickStep squad which also includes British neo-pro Andy Fenn, while Samuel Sanchez, who won Olympic gold on the roads of Beijing, will lead Euskaltel-Euskadi.
Tour de Suisse winner Rui Costa tops Movistar’s line-up and Taylor Phinney will carry the hopes of BMC Racing. View the official start list here.