All good things come to an end, as the saying goes, and from Tuesday to Saturday, Tour of Beijing brings down the curtain on what has been an exceptionally spectacular UCI WorldTour in 2012.
The starstudded line-up in Beijing, headed by defending champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) will ensure the 2012 season concludes in the most enthralling manner possible. For the challenging terrain which the riders face in the 753 kilometre event will surely keep fans glued to their TV screens across the world.
Furthermore, with no time trial this time round - unlike 2011 - and the last major climb just 29 kilometres from the finish on the final day, the Tour of Beijing promises to be a wide open, unpredictable challenge. Only the flat opening stage, 117 kilometres long and running from Tiananmen Square to Birdâ€™s Nest Olympic Piazza in the heart of the Chinese capital, seems certain to end in a bunch sprint.
Stage two, the short (126 kilometres) but punchy Birdâ€™s Nest Piazza to Men Tou Gou Yong Ding River Cultural Square stage could well start to shape the overall classification, with three classified climbs, one of them longer and steeper than originally planned.
However, stage three, starting in Green Sea Forest ParkÂ is arguably the most important of all, with a third category uphill finish, to Badaling Great Wall, almost certain to see the gc challengers moving into the limelight. For those fancying a long distance attack, a first category climb mid-stage, as well three other categorized climbs, could be ideal blast off points.
The last two stages, Yan Qing Gui Chuan Square to Chang Ping Stadium on the Friday and the Chang Ping Stadium to Ping Gu Centenary Square on Saturday October 13th, look ideal for breakaways. But givenÂ the last climb of the race, Szi Szuo Lou Kom, is a first category ascent and is followed byÂ a fast 29 kilometre dash to the finish, if the overall classification is still tight, then it could make for a thrilling showdown.
Whilst Martin is the leading favourite he is far from being the only top name to conclude his WorldTour season in the prestigious Chinese race. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), the 2008 Olympic road-race winner in Beijing is also taking part, along with Martinâ€™s narrowly defeated rival in the UCI World Time Trial Championships -Â BMC Racingâ€™s Taylor Phinney -Â andÂ last but not least, stage race specialist Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan). All in all, a classy line-up that will surely do the final leg of the 2012 UCI WorldTour proud.