Starting this Friday October 11th in Shunyi and finishing in the iconic Bird’s Nest Piazza in Beijing on Tuesday October 15th, the star attraction this year will undoubtably be the newly crowned World Champion, Rui Costa (Movistar Team).
Currently ranked twelfth in the UCI WorldTour individual rankings, Costa is one of the most talented week-long stage racers out there, with his palmares including back to back victories in the Tour de Suisse. There can be no doubts about his current race condition, either, given his very recent victory in the World Championships.
Other top names taking part include Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), recently fourth in Italy’s Il Lombardia Classic and eighth in the UCI WorldTour individual rankings, whilst sprinters Nacer Bouhanni (Fdj.fr), Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) will be solid options for the flatter stages and Classics stars Juan Antonio Flecha (Vancansoleil-DCM) and Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing Team) are likely to make their mark in breakaways and on the hillier stages.
With no individual time trial on the menu, the climbers will have two major opportunities to make an impact. First though, stage one’s 190.5 kilometre run from Shunyi to Huairou Studio City, and then the race’s longest stage, 201.5 kilometres from Huairou Studio City to Yanging should both end in bunch sprints.
Stage three, though, is another story altogether, with no less than seven classified climbs, the hardest of which is a mid-stage first category ascent, Si Hai. If a break forms on the Si Hai,the third category climb of Huang Tu Liang, just 11 kilometres from the finish in Qiandiajian, could whittle it down to just a few top names.
Stage four, either way, will likely decide the race. Just 150.5 kilometres long but featuring a summit finish of Mentougou Miafeng Mountain, the final 12.6 kilometre ascent, averaging 5.7 percent, will almost certainly see an outright winner emerge.
After two days for the climbers, the final stage on October 15th, a 117 kilometre dash through the streets of Beijing to the Bird’s Nest Piazza, will probably fall the sprinters’ way once again.
In the UCI WorldTour rankings, Il Lombardia winner Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is now sure to repeat his 2012 overall victory in the individual category, with a 20 point advantage over Britain’s Chris Froome (Sky ProCycling).
Yet whilst in the nations classification the leader, Spain, has an equally unassailable advantage of 1842 points ahead of Italy’s 1082, third placed Colombia is only 36 points ahead of Great Britain in fourth. And the ranking is even more unstable between sixth and ninth place, with just 25 points separating France on 640 and Belgium on 615. Last-minute changes, then, are still on the table.
As for the UCI WorldTour teams classification, the top three spots are all but secured for leaders Sky ProCycling with 1,561 points, Movistar Team with 1,443 and Katusha with 1,340. However, the teams occupying the fourth to seventh places on the rankings, ranging from Astana Pro Team with 1,045 through to Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team with 1,013 could well alter again in the last event of the 2013 UCI WorldTour. And in a week’s time, when the riders complete the last lap of the Bird’s Nest Piazza square and the 2013 UCI WorldTour finally concludes, we will know for sure.