World-class cyclists ride around Beijing

Updated: 2012-10-09 17:26


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World-class cyclists ride around Beijing

Competitors share a moment before the start of theTour of Beijing race on Tian'anmen Square October 9, 2012. The race, which was held for the first time last year, will cover a distance of 761.5 kilometers. [Photo/CFP] 

BEIJING - Tour of Beijing kicked off on Tuesday with the participation of world's top 18 cycling teams and a Chinese selection.

The five-day race, which made its debut last year, is a top-level competition on the World Tour calendar of the International Cycling Union (UCI). The race is the first of its kind in Asia, as the UCI seeks to expand into new continents.

A number of 146 riders, including 2010 Tour de France champion Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, defending champion and London Olympics silver medalist Tony Martin of Germany, will cover 10 districts of Beijing ranging from the west to the north.

The five stages also consist of numerous scenic spots, from the Bird's Nest stadium to Water Cube Aquatics, from the Mentougou Eco Valley to Ti' anmen Square.

"I'm happy to be back again and I will try my best to repeat the success last year," said Martin at the press conference on Monday.

Different from its inaugural version, this year's Tour of Beijing removes the time-trial stage. Martin, who built his lead in the first time-trial stage last year, then said it will be more difficult for him to defend the title as there are more climbs on the route.

Schleck didn't focus on the result in this season ending event, citing he just came back from injury and will take the race as a new start for the season of 2013.

Beijing officials are keen to promote cycling, the atmosphere of which also influenced Schleck.

"I'm surprised to see so many cycling fans here and it's a motivation for me," he said. "I think cycling is only an European sport maybe 10 to 20 years ago, but now the world's best rider gathered here in Beijing."

The first stage was 117km around the downtown.

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