Three stages, and 300 kilometres of racing; the Tour of Fuzhou is also the third UCI pro road cycling race held in China so far this season in a 2013 UCI Asia Tour that is not yet a month old. This new event, taking place in southeast China’s Fujian province, has thankfully added an element missing from the recent Tour of Taihu Lake: polka dots.
TOUR OF FUZHOU BACKGROUNDER
As a newbie on the UCI calendar, no roll of esteemed prior winners exists. However, the inaugural Tour of Fuzhou, promoted locally as the ‘Eterna Cup’, has a curious European connection by way of a local sponsor with deep pockets.
Eterna is a Swiss timepiece brand, famous amongst aficionados of Haute Horlogerie. Founded in Grenchen, Solothurn in 1856, the marque is regarded as one of the watchmaking industry’s most innovative. It was the first to sell a wristwatch with an alarm clock (1914), and also developed a ball-bearing mounted rotor system (1948) that is still used in automatic movements (put simply, the mechanism that powers and controls the way an analogue watch works) today. Most significantly, Eterna carved off a subsidiary ‘ETA AG‘ (1932) which today has a virtual monopoly on the manufacture of Swiss movements; analogous to a scenario where Shimano is the only supplier of gears to the bicycle industry.
In the closing decades of the last millennium, Eterna passed through several pairs of hands, including those of the Porsche family, before being sold to China Haidian Holdings in 2011. Aside from reportedly controlling over 40% of the local wristwatch market thanks to a broad portfolio laden with other exotic Swiss brands that it exclusively distributes, China Haidan Holdings also dabbles in property and manufactures enamelled copper wire. Subsidiary Fuzhou Dartong M&E Co. Ltd, ostensibly based in Fuzhou, deals primarily with the wire-based segments of its parent company. All in all, there’s no shortage of RMB to sponsor a bike race.
But, why sponsor a bike race? In very simple terms, it’s trendy; and Fuzhou – the capital of Fujian province – is joining other major Chinese cities in promoting a “clean, green” message to its citizens. The carrier device for this message is a bike race. The Tour of Fuzhou logo incorporates green (mountains), blue (water) and red (happiness) as well as the calligraphic Zoro-style swathe of black which represents the roads the cyclists will travel on.
Fuzhou is positioned at a latitude marginally north of neighbouring (over the Strait) Taiwanese capital Taipei, which means humid temperatures and torrential rain for several months a year. Thankfully, the months of November and December are historically dry and cool, with daily temperatures ranging between 10-22°C.
Stage one is essentially a “trophy stage” which is designed to show off the city of Fuzhou to the rest of China and beyond, as well as spread the green message to the seven million locals. Stages two and three, whilst short when compared to the 200km-plus epics of other Asia-based UCI stage races, both feature climbs with 800 metres vertical ascent; not quite hors categorie, but hard enough to make it all-but-impossible for a pure sprinter to win the race.
Teams must have a minimum of four, and maximum of six, riders and four officials. Of the 129 riders scheduled to start, 84 are from Asian nations. In terms of squad numbers, Germany’s Nutrixxion Abus team is the leanest; arriving into Fuzhou with only four riders. China is well represented, with 6 of its 8 UCI Continental teams on the start list.
Five jerseys will be awarded at the conclusion of each stage:
Leader of General Classification – Yellow
Leader of Points Classification – Green
Leader of King of the Mountains (KOM) Classification – Polka Dot
Leader of Best Asian Rider classification – Blue
Leader of Greater China Individual Classification – White
A pool of USD100,000 is earmarked for distribution to place-getters in intermediate sprints and KOM’s, and also for winners of stages and classifications. Here’s a summary of the major beneficiaries:
Overall winner (individual) = USD6,000
Overall team = USD3,500
Overall KOM = USD1,200
Overall Points = USD1,200
Stage winner = USD3,500
Best Asian Rider (overall individual) = USD1,800
Greater China Rider (overall individual)= USD1,300
The official Tour of Fuzhou website is a little clunky, but it has most of the information needed for fans to know what should be happening, and when. As always, Cycling iQ will try to fill in the rest of the gaps, including stage results on Twitter
and daily race reports (CiQ: I was obviously feeling very optimistic when writing this preview; the time needed to gather the necessary information for stage reports is simply not available) in a timely fashion.
STAGES AND PROFILES
Stage 1 | Fuzhou Circuit Race, 119.7km
Sunday, 17 November 2012 (starts 10:00 local time)
Stage 2 | Fuzhou Forest National Park, 97.2km
Monday, 18 November 2012 (starts 10:00 local time)
Stage 3 | Yongtai, 82.8km
Tuesday, 19 November 2012 (starts 10:00 local time)