Cycling is up in arms over the Tour of Beijing, a race slated to make its inaugural appearance on the world calendar October 5. Teams are threatening to boycott the race entirely. Is it because of the treatement of Tibet? Or worker standards? Global warming? Nope... race frickin radios. The AIGCP has also raised the lack of inclusion of the race in the orginal world tour calendar, but I'm not seeing any second part of that argument, i.e. why it's a problem. Are the teams unprepared for the travel?
Frankly, the pros and cons of this affair are so numerous, let's take a tally...
- Beijing will put on a cool race. I can't find any details on the course, but he Olympic road race was gorgeous and the region around Beijing is both fascinating and hilly enough to make for a good race.
- Beijing is the center of activity in one of the world's most important countries, no matter how you slice it.
- Chinese corporations (and presumably the government) are sitting on a lot of cash, and surely the factions of the peloton that think forwardly about developing more stable support for cycling know this well. If the global economy did in HTC, then it behooves the sport to find places in the global economy to tell a better story.
- It's hard to know what will become of the Chinese fan market. China isn't very affluent outside of the corporate centers; people are busy; European cycling has no natural fanbase; etc. But it's a country with a lot of bicycles and the idea of leisure time is surely becoming more potent than it was in, say, the 1970s. So if you bring the race there, maybe people will show up after all.
- Race radios issue has not been meaningfully resolved. It needs to be.
- There's something very creepy about the UCI owning a race. They have made various statements defending their licensing integrity, which of course makes me even more concerned. Integrity? The UCI?
- Who rides this thing? I suppose it's the same people who do the Japan Cup. With big races happening in Europe, there will be little notice back home. Maybe that doesn't matter; the Chinese audience will be happy with whoever comes, not unlike Qatar or California. A few big names is all you really need. Still, UCI points are at stake, and it's not cool to put too many of them on the line in less important races, if you intend for the World Tour to be the elite peloton.
Personally I hope it goes off, though that has more to do with my own connection to China. From a cycling fan's perspective, I could definitely live without it, and only really care about it as a possible long-term solution. Whaddya'all think?
Photo by Jamie Squire, Getty Images Sport