I know some of you have been thinking about when the Tour of Guangxi was going to happen, in the hopes of making proper preparations. Well I am here to tell you that it’s on, like now, and you had better be ready.
Yes, it’s the newest entry on the “World Tour,” a term that used to be synonymous with top competition underlain by tradition and popularity, but now has to do with funding a new wing for the UCI Presidential Library in Aigle. It’s been planned maybe as far back as 2014 when the Beijing Tour came and went, because it’s the modern era of UCI cycling and that means finding sources of income in every wealthy country on Earth, whether they have any connection to cycling or not. The lever is a World Tour race, whereby teams are obligated to send at least a few humans dressed in their gear, and maybe a full-on set of top professional cyclists.
This cannot be stopped. The time for discussion is over. Photos of riders hanging around the Guilin Airport can be seen on the internet. Stage details have been posted on the very same internet, albeit via Facebook, for security purposes. The race is happening, and it starts Thursday.*
*Thursday is actually Wednesday night. Because I don’t know.
Look, I’ve been to Guangxi. It was a long time ago, and the only biking I did was on the ubiquitous upright city bike that you see all over China, by the thousands of millions. Very little effort went into that bike to save weight or even produce a good friction-less exchange between the chain and what counted for a cassette. But it worked. And it didn’t matter much anyway.
This part of China consists largely of two types of terrain: flat roads and gumdrop-shaped hills so steep that no normal human could ever ascend them, though if they did, upon arriving at the top they would be greeted by a middle-aged woman selling bottled water, with no apparent explanation of how she and her 50 pounds of cargo got there. You think I am kidding.
Anyway, the race itself is broken into two phases, a triptych of sprint stages followed by three days of uphill interruptions. Stage 4 is probably the key, being the only MTF that finishes atop the Mashan Nongla Scenic Area just north of Nanning. I have no idea what the gradients are, but the photos on the website — which, again, is just a Facebook page — make it look pretty tame. The next two days are further north by the provincial capital of Guilin, and include climbs of greater height, with descents to more populated areas for the finish. Probably the winner of one of those stages will win the race. I don’t really know. Information is hard to come by.
So Who’ll Be There?
This I can help you with. Here is a painfully brief rundown of every team’s headliners.
Presumably here for the GC. They have Jakob Fuglsang, with Andriy Grivko and Dario Cataldo for help.
Ready for anything! Niccolo Bonifazio and Grega Bole are there for sprints, with Sonny Colbrelli potentially in position to poach the Mashan climb. Mei Yin Wang and Yukia Arashiro give the team a distinctly Asian edge, which has to help. Arashiro isn’t headed to the Japan Cup next week, alas, with Bah-Meh sitting that one out.
Hm, Sylvan Dillier is the biggest name. Manuel Senni might be in the climbing mix.
Here to sprint. Matteo Pelucchi and Pascal Ackerman are the prime suspects. Remember, these are World Tour points at stake.
Maybe the most loaded roster for the GC. Hugh Carthy, Lawson Craddock and William Clarke will take a stab at the uphill parts. After that, it’s a curiously cobbles-focused lot (Sep, Langeveld, van Baarle), who either need some late points or have stumbled upon some connection between mid-October form and a good spring campaign.
Teklehaimanot? Sure, why not.
I’ve got my eye on this Enzo Wouters, a very Belgian type who had big success as a junior (he’s 20 now). For reals, Tim Wellens is a threat to win if on form. Strong support from CrAzY Thomas and Adam Hansen. Moreno Hofland is the target sprinter probably, or maybe Tosh Van Der Sande. Actually they are leveraging some pretty fine youth here.
Uh, well it’s up to Jesus Herrada and Dayer Quintana to get a result I think? Yeah, no.
Quite possibly the best-rounded sprint squad, with Caleb Ewan, Magnus Cort Nielsen, Christopher Juul Jensen and Jens Keukeleire on the startlist. Being Australian makes for some funny scheduling around this time of year, if not ha-ha funny.
Being themselves, sending star riders at every stage, albeit without a deep team. Fernando Gaviria is here to win sprints, and Julian Alaphilippe the uphills. Be a shocker if they didn’t get at least one.
Running out the clock, behind Marco Haller and Rick Zabel.
Sprints, of course, with Dylan Groenewegen and a decent leadout in front of him, headed by Lars Boom.
Mikel Landa here for his last act in Black. But so is Wout Poels, with plenty of support. Owain Doull might make a run at a sprint.
The scorned would-be rainbow Michael Matthews keeps his season going here, along with Wilco Kelderman for the overall.
Bauke Mollema got any form left? Giacomo Nizzolo will be in the bunch.
The almost-Chinese WT team brings... a stunningly uninteresting array of riders playing out the season. Pretty much all of them can sprint, just well enough to get mentioned.
Am guessing from the number assignments that Antonio Molina is the GC guy?
One team that is clearly getting ready for the Japan Cup, with three Japanese riders on hand, all of whom will go to Tokyo afterwards and start... their support of Damiano Cunego. Cool!