Tour of Beijing: A step forward for cycling?
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The Tour of Beijing will mark China's first top-level stage race and a step forward for cycling's governing body when it starts on Wednesday (October 5). Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) president Pat McQuaid sees the event as part of the globalisation of professional cycling, and defended the UCI's close relationship with the race's organiser.
"It's not an awkward position," said McQuaid in a press conference. "It is the UCI's role to promote and develop the sport."
It is the first time that UCI has organised a stage race, which it is doing via Global Cycling Promotion (GCP). GCP is legally separate from the UCI, but ties are close thanks to Alain Rumpf. Rumpf formerly managed the UCI's ProTour and keeps his office at UCI's Aigle headquarters. He sat beside McQuaid in the conference today.
McQuaid acknowledged the legal separation between the UCI and GCP, but said it is beneficial to the UCI to promote GCP's first race.
"If the UCI can get some funds from this race," McQuaid explained, "that money is going to be used for developing the sport."
He added that the GCP would transfer earnings to the UCI.
According to the UCI's 2010 annual report, €445,000 (approximately £381,226) was given to GCP from the UCI's ProTour Reserve Fund in that financial year. Income from the fund came from ProTour team and race licence fees.
Cycling will also gain from the new race, according to McQuaid and Rumpf: it helps bike manufacturers sell in China and it may encourage Chinese companies to sponsor teams.
Instead of promoting existing stage races to top-level, WorldTour status - like the Tour of Qinghai Lake - GCP decided on a new race in Beijing.
"One reason is that Beijing wants to attract major sporting events," Rumpf told Cycling Weekly. "The other reason is that the city wants to promote the bike as green and healthy transport.
"This city, like other big cities, has traffic problems. They want to follow London and Paris, where bikes are promoted and keep their citizens healthy."
With the race guaranteed for four years and ranked in the WorldTour, Beijing and the UCI will have a chance to accomplish its goals.
The race may become the last race of the season next year. McQuaid is talking with the Tour of Lombardy organiser about moving the Italian race to the Saturday ahead of Paris-Tours on Sunday.
Tour of Beijing 2011: Stages
Stage one, Wednesday October 5, Bird's Nest to Water Cube, 11.3km ITT
Stage two, Thursday October 6, Bird's Nest to Men Tou Gou, 137km
Stage three, Friday October 7, Men Tou Gou to Yong Ning Town, 162km
Stage four, Saturday October 8, Yan Qing Gui Chuan Square to Shunyi Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Centre, 189.5km
Stage five, Sunday October 9, Tian An Men Square to Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium, 118km
Team Sky get ready for Tour of Beijing