«The landscape around Guangxi is simply breathtaking»
In the past 12 months, Olivier Senn has travelled to East Asia four times to visit Guangxi. Wanda Sports Group, the Chinese owners of Infront Sports & Media, gave the Tour de Suisse (TdS) organisers at InfrontRingier a very special mandate over a year ago. «Together with the UCI, the Wanda Group is seeking to enhance the status of cycle racing in China», explains Senn. «The Group is also using the Tour of Guangxi to help draw global attention to the breathtaking landscape of the Guangxi region.» For the TdS organisers, this job offers an exciting challenge: «This is not least due to the fact that we are facing a number of basic issues that have to be resolved. In turn, we are actively scrutinising our own organisation with every decision we make.»
Transferring knowledge to China
For the inaugural edition, the TdS organisers are putting Sports Director David Loosli and several of their long-standing race managers on the project. «As many of the team have professional commitments elsewhere, they have to take extra holiday.» The TdS organisers are providing their Chinese counterparts with advice and assistance on site. «The aim is for the local organisers to be able to independently coordinate and hold the race according to UCI standards in a couple of years’ time», explains Senn. This exchange of knowledge is an intensive process. With just a few weeks to go, Senn is phoning and emailing the Chinese virtually every day. The experienced drivers in the TdS race management team are also set to make their way to China. «For me, it is essential for our instructions to be understood during the race», emphasises Senn. «If we were to use foreign drivers, we would almost certainly face a number of communication issues.»
700 km of new streets through fantastic scenery
The autonomous region of Guangxi is located at sea level in the far south-west of the country, on the border with Vietnam. With a tropical climate, it is the largest tourist region in China. «The streets and rivers are all extremely clean», says Senn, cutting through any potential prejudices. «I was very happily surprised. During each visit, I felt extremely safe and in good hands at all times.»
The route is set to take place over six stages and passes through predominantly flat and hilly terrain. «A single mountain-top finish at a monastery features an ascent of around 400 metres», reveals Senn. «This race is ideal for riders in the mould of Peter Sagan and Michael Matthews.»
Everything seems possible for the inaugural edition of the Tour of Guangxi. For example, just under 700 kilometres of new roads will be paved and around 30,000 façades renovated especially for the race. «It will provide a major boost to this tourist region.» During his visits to the Guangxi, Senn was amazed time and again by how quickly things are able to get done in China.
The race will not feature time trials, instead consisting of circuits. Nanning, with more than seven million inhabitants, is the capital of the region. One of the stages will finish there, another – an urban circuit – will be held in the city a day later, and a third will start from the capital. The urban circuit, which has to be completed four times by the riders, takes in the most beautiful parts of the metropolis and ends with a seven-kilometre-long straight that cuts right through the city. In total, 16 of the 18 UCI WorldTour teams will compete in the Tour of Guangxi. Of the major teams, only AG2R and FDJ will not be present. Eurosport will broadcast the stages live each day.
19 Oct Stage 1 – Beihai › Beihai (109.6 km)
20 Oct Stage 2 – Qinzhou › Nanning (160 km)
21 Oct Stage 3 – Nanning › Nanning (128.8 km)
22 Oct Stage 4 – Nanning › Mashan Nongla Scenic Spot (154 km)
23 Oct Stage 5 – Liuzhou › Guilin (217 km)
24 Oct Stage 6 – Guilin › Guilin (173 km)