UCI WorldTour: Tour of Beijing offers final chance of success
The Tour of Beijing is the final race of the 2014 UCI WorldTour, with some of the best riders in the world ready to fight for overall victory during the five stages and so end their year of racing on a high.
The Tour of Beijing also offers important points for the individual, teams and nations UCI WorldTour rankings. The overall winner of the race scores 100 points, with other points awarded on a sliding scale to the top ten riders. The top five riders of each stage also score points, although fewer.
Alejandro Valverde and his Movistar team dominate the individual and team rankings of the UCI WorldTour after a hugely successful 2014 season. Valverde has a total of 686 points after winning Flèche Wallonne and the Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian. He also finished second in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, was fourth at the Tour de France, third in the Vuelta a Espana, third in the UCI Road World Championships and second at the recent Il Lombardia one-day race in Italy.
The Il Lombardia result moved him ahead of Spanish rival Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and gave him a lead of 66 points. Australia's Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) is third with 478 points, while former World Champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) is fourth with 398 points. Movistar has a similar grip on the team rankings, having scored 1440 points. Tinkoff-Saxo is second with 1186 points and the BMC Racing Team is third with 1104 points. Spain dominates the nations ranking with 1834 points, ahead of Italy (1070) and France (987).
Valverde recently became a father and so will not be in action in Beijing. Beñat Intxausti will lead the Movistar outfit and will be looking for a second consecutive overall victory after his impressive performance in 2013. Il Lombardia winner Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) is expected to challenge Intxausti and the Movistar team. The Irishman finished second overall in 2013 and is backed by a strong team that also includes 2012 Giro d'Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal.
Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) is also an overall contender and showed his form with third at Il Lombardia. Costa knows that he could move up to third overall in the UCI WorldTour rankings if he scores 80 points. Rigoberto Uran leads the Omega Pharma-QuickStep and the Colombian could also be an overall threat along with Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Warren Barguil (Giant-Shimano).
Some of the best sprinters and Classics riders will also be in action at the Tour of Beijing and will no-doubt target stage victories. Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) and Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r-La Mondiale) are all on form. Last year’s final stage winner Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) will be battling it out with Ben Swift (Team Sky) in the sprints with Danny van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing), Moreno Hofland and Markus Barry (Belkin) and young Australian Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) also fast finishers.
Mezgec can count on the support of Chinese rider Chenj Ji, who earned the nick-name of 'Breakaway Killer' during the Tour de France in July, for his ability to chase down the attacks on flat stages.
Five intense days of racing
The Tour of Beijing begins on Friday October 10 with a 167km stage from Chong Li to Zhangjiakou in the hills north of the city and ends on Tuesday October 14 with a 117km from Tiananmen Square to Bird’s Nest Piazza in the heart of Beijing.
The opening stage is hilly but ends with a descent to the finish in Zhangjiakou. Stage two from Chong Li to Yanqing is tougher, with the climb of Jan Yia Ping ending only 30km from the finish. Sunday's third stage from Yanqing to the Qianjiadian Chao Yang Temple is the longest of the race at 176km and includes seven climbs. If it does not shake up the overall classification, stage four from Yanqing to Mentougou Miaofeng Mountain Summit surely will. The 157km stage ends with a 12.6km climb, with an average gradient of 5.7%. Last year Intxausti beat Martin here, setting up his overall victory.
The climb to Mentougou Miaofeng Mountain summit is the last mountain of this year's race. Whoever leads the overall classification at this point is likely to celebrate victory and end the 2014 season on a high during the final circuit stage in the Bird’s Nest Piazza.