Race Design Thread

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Ok, I've changed something about the coming stages, so I decided to keep the original Vesuvio stage of the 2009 Giro instead of the one that I proposed, another stage will end with a downhill finish.


Now comes the next stage

Stage 17: Caserta - Larciano; 196.6km


The stage starts in Caserta, a town that is known of the stunning Royal Palace that was built for the Bourbon kings durning the 18th century. it's also the hometown of the Italian amateur Boxer and C-list celebrity Clemente Russo, who won Silver at HW at both the Beijing and the London Olympics.


Clemente Russo after getting his lunch money stolen by Usyk at the London Olympics in 2012:

The first 85km of the stage are false flat/slightly rolling, then the first categgorized climb of the day starts, Válico del Macerone, 3.9km at 5.4%.

After a short descent the next climb of the day starts, Válico di Rionero Sannítico, 9.1km at 6.8%, but there's a section of false flat in the middle of the climb, it's harder than one would think.

After this one we have around 32km of rolling terrain, then a long descent starts, only when we hit 22.5km to go it's once again flat.
The final obstacle of the day is the climb to Villa Adreoli, 4.3km at 4.7%. The climb tops with only 3km to go, from then onwards it's slightly downhill, but never over 5%.
The stage finishes in Larciano a town known for organizing and hosting the Gran Premio Industria ed Artigianato di Larciano.

This one will g to the breakaway, it's right betwen 2 gc stages and the sprinters have another chance, so they probably won't fight for this one.
Stage 5: Visp - Ascona, 162.7 km



If this was a Tour designed by Jean-François Pescheux, this would be described as the second Alpine stage. Since it isn't, I can freely describe it accurately: the best chance the breakaway will have all week.

The stage starts from Visp, a town through which the race already passed the day before, and host for the first time since 1995 . Its sunny climate has led to the highest vineyards in Europe developing on its slopes. Its most famous son is also its most notorious, in the shape of disgraced ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter; it is also the birthplace of former skier Dominique Gisin, a gold medalist at the Olympics in Sochi back in 2014.



The first intermediate sprint of the day comes inside the first 10 kilometers, in Brig. The unofficial capital of Oberwallis, it happens to be the birthplace of Blatter's successor - Gianni Infantino. More interestingly for the riders, it also sits at the foot of the Simplonpass.


22 kilometers at a fairly consistent 6%, it's difficult enough to be granted HC status. Even if Bora have not kept the peloton together for Sagan to take the intermediate sprint, it should decide the composition of the breakaway. The wide and sweeping descent takes us into Italy. We pass through Domodossola, which hosted an abysmal mountain stage in the 2006 Giro (the Simplon was the final climb; Bettini led in the peloton well after Laverde had taken the win from the breakaway), then head up the next climb, to Druogno.

We then reach the feed zone, and shortly after it, we leave the route followed by the 2017 race (that stage started from Bex, joined our route after a long flat, and had this as the final climb before a false-flat rise into Cevio - no points for guessing who won that day). I've categorised the easy climb to Passo dello Scopello, from where a twisting, but not particularly steep descent leads into the second intermediate sprint at Cannobio, on the Lago Maggiore.

Shortly after, we cross the border again, and head up another cat. 3 climb (the first 2 kilometers of this profile followed by 800 meters at about 5%). From here, it's a short distance to Arcegno, where we join the third circuit in four days in this race.


After the first part of the technical descent, there's a short, stingy rise to Monte Verità. In the early 20th century, this hill became famous as an utopian colony, founded on principles similar to those adopted by the hippies half a century later. It was eventually deserted in the 1920s and now is the site of a conference centre.

Anyway, another series of switchbacks brings us into Ascona, with less than a kilometer of flat before the finish line. There are two full laps of the circuit above to be completed. The route heads away from the lake at first, before reaching the narrow climb up Via Pestalozzi. Note that the steeper gradient on the detailed profile is the accurate one. The road does not widen until we reach Arcegno again. If the peloton has reeled in the breakaway, a late attack on either of the climbs or descents has a good chance of sticking - with the exception of the final 700 meters, none of the terrain favours a chase. For this reason, and the fact that there's a harder stage tomorrow, I really don't see how the break does not take this one.

Ascona hasn't seen the race since 2010 and a stage finish since 2006. Freire won that stage (over the Lukmanierpass, with a flat finale), 3 seconds ahead of Bennati and Zabel - not because his sprint was that good, but because he won from the early break. It did host the Tour de Romandie in 2014, when Kwiatkowski won the prologue. It's well-frequented owing to its old centre, its promenade along Lago Maggiore, and its jazz festival.


Ascona, with Monte Verita in the left of the picture.
Stage 18: Chieti - Chieti; 169km


This one replaces the Blockhaus MTF, it's a stage that should really suit someone like Di Luca (we have to give him at least one punchy uphill finish, even better if it's in his home region.
The stage starts and finishes in Chieti, a classic Tirreno-Adriatico town and since WWII the town has aalso hosted 11 Giro stage starts o finishes.

The first 58km of the stage are rolling terrain, then the first climb of the day starts, Passo San Leonardo, 20.8km at 4.2%, nothing special, but a long drag.

the followin descent is 34.4km long and features a short uphill/false flat section, after that the hardest cliimb of he day starts, Passo Larciano from Lettomanopello, 12.2km at 8.2%.

The following descent is pretty technical, after that we hav 15km of slightly downhill false flat, then the classic Murito Finish in Chieti starts (same as the 2013 Tirreno-Adriatico stage).

This one should be fireworks, Passo Larciano is a hard climb and the following descent is technical, so some riders won't wait for the final murito. The next stage is also pretty easy, so the riders wont have to hold back. Someone could really attack on Passo Larciano like Contador on the 2014 Muro di Guardigrele stage.
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Stage 19: Penne - Tolentino; 213km


After the big Chieti stage we have and easier one before the final gc relevant stage.
The stage starts in Penne, a .town known as Pinna durning the times of the Roman Republic (first mentioned by Gaius Plinius Secundus Maior in the Naturalis historia as the capital of the italic Vestini tribe) .

The first 50km feature a lot of rolling terrain, then the riders will ride northwards for 56km alongside the Adriatic coastline before turning westward, here a long section of uphillish false flat starts.
After 156km the first categorized climb of the day starts, the ascent to Rustici, 2.1km at 7.1%.
After the descent we have 23km of false flatish descents and rolling terrain, then the ascent to the cemetery of Burgiano starts, 2.9km at 7.9%, a short, but rather steep climb, on top of the climb we still have 1.5km of slightly uphill false flat before the descent .
After the following descent we have 13.5 km of mostly slightly downhill false flat, then the final ascent of the day starts, Valico di Terme Santa Lucia, 3.2km at 5.1%.

The following descent is pretty fast, without any hairpins and only ends with 1.2km to go.
The stage ends in Tolentino, a stunning town in the Marche region.


This one should go to the breakaway, the final 2 climbs will probably a bit too much for the pure sprinters and the teams of the more durable ones will have a hard time keeping the breakaway in check, not too many teams will be willing to help them. If a few fast stagehunters fancy their chance here we could see a high pace on the penultimate climb and a few attemps to make a late attack stick.
Stage 20: Ascoli Piceno - Rieti; 151km


Here it comes, the final mountain stage of my version of the 2009 Giro.
The stage starts in Ascoli Piceno, another stunning town that was founded by an italic tribe, the Piceni. The town is also known for it's medieval towers.


The first 32km of the stage are false flat, then the first cimb of the day starts, Forca di Presta, 12km at 7%.
After a 4km long descent we have 4.6km of false flat, then the ascent to the Rifugio Perugia starts, 3.3km at 6.9%.
The ascent is followed by a 9km long, rather steep descent, then we only have 3.5km before the next climb starts, the ascent to Valnerina, 7.4km at 6.6%, a decent climb.
After that we have 23km of slightly downhill false flat, followed by 11km of uphillish false flat (the steepest section is around 4.5%).
Then the famous Sella di Leonessa ascent starts, but we're using the northern side, not the much more popular (and harder) southern one, 10.2km at 7.4%.

The climb tops with 32.5km to go, the descent is long and from Terminillo onwards pretty steep and with a few nice hairpins, it shouldn't be unterestimated.
Right after the descent the final ascent of the day starts, Via Forest from Castelfranco, 2km at 6.4%.
The following descent is 3.6km long and rather steep, the final 4.1km are pretty much plain flat and without many twists and turns.
The stage ends in Rieti, the capital of the Rieti province. The late Kobe Bryant lived here for 2 years as a kid when his family moved to Italy when is dad started playing here. Kobe was 6 when he moved to Italy and stayed here for 7 years, he became fluent in Italian and when he became a huge star he was really popular (for an NBA player) in Italy. The town is also a classic Giro d'italia town, the ascent to Sella di Leonessa from it's hard side/Monte Terminillo starts here.

This is the final gc stage, so I expect fireworks on the Sella di Leonessa. Having a teammate in the breakaway would also be a big advantage, that adds another tactical aspect to the stage.
Stage 21 Terni - Roma (Fori Imperiali); 114km



The final parade for the sprinters.
A few easy hills early on, but nothing that will really prevent the big final showdown between the sprinters. After passing the finishing line for the first time with 8km to goo we still have a nice lap around the old town of Rome, that means stunning aerial shots before the big sprint on the Fori Imperiali, a setting that is able to rival the final parade in Paris (even if Paris is overall sooo much nicer as a town, but that's a different topic). This is the end of my Giro, I hope you enjoyed the journey.


The library post in coming tomorrow or durning the next few days.
I have decided to have a go at a 1-week ( 8 day, actually ) version of Tour of Turkey, and I think I have come up with a pretty decent route so thought I'd share it here:
Stage 1 - Sunday Istanbul ITT 10.5 km
The stage starts in front of Çırağan Palace purely for personal reasons ( I had my highschool graduation prom there lol ), and finishes in front of Gezi Parkı in Taksim, which became famous in 2013 ( I don't want to enter into politics here, let's just say that the protests were right ( the reason why I finish the stage here )). It also passes next to Vodafone Arena, stadium of Beşiktaş JK, one of the 3 biggest football clubs of Turkey ( and the one that I like ).
The course is undulating and techincal, with a 2.5 km at %4.7 climb to Zincirlikuyu ( which is a 4th category climb and will give the first KOM points ), then at the end of the descent you have a 300m cobbled climb at around %8-9 average ( between km 6.6 and 6.9)( here is a photo: https://www.google.com/maps/@41.049...4!1scVGFhq-Qi6hhUa9w_QlSGQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192 ), and the final 1.3 km to Gezi Parkı is %5.3 but it is uncategorized. A TT similar to the opening TT of Giro '18 in Jerusalem but harder than that, but much easier than the Mont Brouilly ITT in Paris-Nice 2017.
There should be gaps between the contenders, and some nice places for tourists too. ( And the people living there are enlightened too, for another plus. )
Çırağan Palace:

Gezi Parkı:
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Tour of Turkey Stage 2 Silivri-Şarköy 151.1 Km

Yeniköy ( cat.2 ) 9.5 km at %4.7
Çengelli ( cat.2 ) 10.1 km at %4.7

Stage 2 is a hilly stage, and may be a stage for some GC gaps, at least will separate the contenders from non-contenders. we start the stage at Silivri, a coastal town. The intermediate sprint is at Tekirdağ, a coastal city. Then we have our first climb of the day, to Yeniköy. A 2nd category climb of 9.5 km at %4.1, but the average gradient don't tell the story since it is a multi-stepped climb. I drew the climb at cronoescalada ( The climb starts from Kumbağ ) :

After an irregular descent we have some flat, before the final climb to Çengelli, which is 10.1 km at %4.7, but again stats don't tell the whole story, as it has some flat parts, as seen here:

We then have a mostly power descent to Şarköy, another coastal town.

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Tour of Turkey Stage 3 Şarköy-Eceabat 176.9 Km

Gölcük ( cat.3 ) 6.4 km at %4.8
Alçıtepe ( cat.4 ) 6.9 km at %1.7

A flat stage. Goes through some of the roads that have various memorials of the Battle of Gallpoli from WWI. This battle featured Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who rose to prominence here as a commander, he later led the Turkish War of Independence and established the Republic of Turkey. His revolutions are what separates Turkey from the rest of the Middle East ( although Turkey is getting less and less secular ). I hope his legacy lives on forever, I am grateful to him for the life I have today.

Battle of Gallipoli ( featuring Atatürk at the top photo ( second left )):
Tour of Turkey Stage 4 Çanakkale-Troia Ancient City 31.1 Km ITT

Erenköy ( cat.4 ) 2.6 km at %5.5

Time checkpoints:
Kepez Km 6.8
Erenköy Km 17.4

A power TT that is mostly flat but has a small categorized hill ( It also has two more smaller hills that are not worthy of categorization ). Climbers should lose some time hopefully inciting them to attack at later stages. The stage starts at Çanakkale, and finishes at the ancient city of Troia( Troy ). In Greek mythology, Troy was the place where the Trojan War took place between the Greeks and the Trojans. The Greeks used a horse to trick the Trojans, making Trojans believe that they won, and then managed to enter the city of Troy ( there were soldiers inside the horse given to the Trojans ) and won the war.



I always struggle with the Tour of Turkey because I always want to go explore parts of the country you never see in it, but then you always end up with either a race that's Grand Tour length, or has some absolutely absurd transfers, or both. I can never trim it down to something that I'm happy with.

Although I am greatly disappointed that you're from that side of the river, FTB. I've always had a soft spot for Galatasaray after their amazing late 90s team with Hagi.
I always struggle with the Tour of Turkey because I always want to go explore parts of the country you never see in it, but then you always end up with either a race that's Grand Tour length, or has some absolutely absurd transfers, or both. I can never trim it down to something that I'm happy with.

Although I am greatly disappointed that you're from that side of the river, FTB. I've always had a soft spot for Galatasaray after their amazing late 90s team with Hagi.
Well, mine is only 8 days, but maybe I can make a 3-week version in future. Actually the first race I started doing in this thread was a 3-week Tour of Turkey all the way back in 2016, but I didn't like it which meant that I abandoned it, though I posted a stage to Mt. Kartepe to this thread ( it was stage 2 and it was a unipublic style stage, but Kartepe is an extremely tough climb itself ), and I was happy when that climb was used in last years Tour of Turkey. This one is a 1-week version, and has some ideas from 2019, like the start at İstanbul, a stage finishing at Eceabat, a stage start at Çanakkale and I will also use Mt. Kartepe ( To be fair I realized some of the similarities after doing the route lol, like the stage start at Çanakkale, or the visit of Bursa ). It is actually weird to call it Tour of Turkey because my race only uses the Marmara region lol, maybe Tour of Marmara would be a more appropriate name.

The thing with Turkey is that, it has so many mountains, but you have to check where there are mountain passes and roads that are rideable. But when you find the mountains, they are very tough. Well, the absurd transfers can be done with plane, there are many airports in Turkey ( some of them being unnecessary ). 1-week Turkey whilst covering every part of the country is impossible.

Well, about Hagi and Galatasaray, my dad likes Galatasaray, but my mother likes Beşiktaş and she convinced me to be a Beşiktaş fan. But Hagi is probably the best player to ever come to Turkey ( well, Roberto Carlos was also at Turkey for a couple of years ( hell, he even coached Sivasspor lol ), but Hagi's level was the highest level a player has played in Turkey imo ). And I agree that Galatasaray late 90s was the best team in Turkey, though Galatasaray in late 80s was very good too, and Fenerbahçe in '08. I liked our squad of '18, but unfortunately we were against a rejuvenated Bayern München led by Heynckes.
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Tour of Turkey Stage 5 Lapseki-Erdek 204.7 Km

Gebeçınar ( cat.3 ) 4.9 km at %3.9
Çakılköy ( cat.4 ) 2 km at %6.7
Ballıpınar ( cat.3 ) 2.8 km at %7.8
Kılıç ( cat.4 )1.5 km at %7
Orhanlı ( cat.3 ) 1.3 km at %10.1
Turan Avenue ( cat.2 ) 3 km at %9.1

A tough hilly stage from Lapseki to Erdek, with 6 categorized and a couple more uncategorized climbs, and hopefully a chance for climbers to take some time on the TTers. The highlights are Ballıpınar climb, which is 42 kms from the line, the wall to Orhanlı which is 23 kms, and the final climb to Turan Avenue which is only 10 kms from the line as the descent of Turan Avenue brings the riders to Erdek. The Kapıdağ peninsula is a place for vacationers and in this stage the roads of Kapıdağ peninsula will make cyclists struggle.

Ballıpınar: https://www.cronoescalada.com/index.php/puertos/viewProfile/20137
Orhanlı: https://www.cronoescalada.com/index.php/puertos/view/20140
Turan Avenue: https://www.cronoescalada.com/index.php/puertos/view/20142


Tour of Turkey Stage 7 Yalova-Uludağ Ski Resort 132.1 Km

Güneyköy ( cat.3 ) 5.4 km at %4.7
Umurbey ( cat.3 ) 2.5 km at %7.5
Ericek ( cat.1 ) 14.5 km at %4.3
Uludağ ( cat. HC ) 31.4 km at %5.6

A tough MTF at Uludağ Ski Resort after a long climb of more than 30 km. The exact stats are around 30.2 km at %5.8. Before the big climb, we have a couple of climbs, most notably the irregular Ericek which is a borderline cat. 1/2 but since APM coefficient after mapping the climb gave it cat.1, I decided to go with cat.1.
The final climb should be the one for tempo climbers, but it is still tough enough for gaps, and to incentivize attacking, this is the only MTF of the race.
Ericek: https://www.cronoescalada.com/index.php/puertos/view/20143
Uludağ Ski Resort: https://www.cronoescalada.com/index.php/puertos/view/20144


Uludağ Ski Resort:
Now for the final...
Tour of Turkey Stage 8 İnegöl-Kartepe 208.1 Km

Katırözü ( cat.1 ) 8.5 km at %8.1
Mt. Kartepe - Forest Road ( cat. HC ) 10 km at %11.4
Mt. Kartepe - Kartepe Avenue ( cat. HC ) 12.4 km at %8.8

After some uncategorized climbs, we have our first serious climb of the day, Katırözü. 8.5 km at %8.1, it is the perfect place for the teams to set a hard pace to make the day hard. The top of the climb is crested with 100 km to go:

Then we have a descent to Maşukiye.

With 78 kms to go, we start the Mt. Kartepe Ski Resort from its relatively unknown side ( the road is perfectly asphalted ). And after an easier first km, the next 9 kms are %12.2!! Then the climb flattens for the last 2.5-3 km or so. But with 9 km at %12.2 in the middle, this climb will create hopefully carnage as we crest the very top with 65.5 km to go
Look at this slopes, a true rival of Zoncolan, just look at it:

After the top of the climb we descend back to Maşukiye and tackle Mt. Kartepe from its "easier", main side, the one that was used in Tour of Turkey last year, although the weather conditions meant that they finished the stage not at the top IIRC. 12.4 km of %8.8 at the middle. At the top of the climb there is 26 kms remaining:

Then we have a descent to Maşukiye. After the descent the last 9.5 kms or so are false flat to the town of Kartepe. Minutes should be gained or lost on this stage. A worthy queen stage. Tour of Turkey, THIS is how you can design a mountain stage. My race ends here.


So, to sum it up:
I had a short glance at some of the previous editions of Tour of Turkey and designed an 8-day race that I was pleased with the result, even though it is only Tour of Marmara lol.
There are:
  • 2 ITTs ( 41.6 km in total )
  • 2 hilly stages
  • 2 flat stages ( though Gemlik one is not for the likes of Kittel )
  • 2 mountain stages ( 1 MTF, and the other one is the queen stage )
I have
  • 3 HC climbs ( Uludağ, Mt.Kartepe (Forest Road), Mt.Kartepe ( Kartepe Avenue ) )
  • 2 1C climbs ( Ericek, Katırözü )
  • 3 2C climbs ( Yeniköy, Çengelli, Turan Avenue )
  • And a bunch of smaller climbs.
A short ITT at İstanbul ( a popular start, and commemoration to 2013 Gezi protests ), a hilly stage to Şarköy, a flat stage to Eceabat ( commemoration to Battle of Gallipoli from WW1 ), a TT to Troia ( commemoration to Trojan War from Greek mythology ), a hilly stage to Erdek ( showing Kapıdağ peninsula ), a stage to Gemlik, a MTF at Uludağ ( I think we can see a finish here in a couple of years from Tour of Turkey, because it is very close to Bursa, and pretty close to İstanbul and Uludağ is a very popular ski resort, so suits the requirements ), and the queen stage to Kartepe ( using Mt. Kartepe in a great way )

For library:
Stage 1: https://forum.cyclingnews.com/threads/race-design-thread.15517/page-314#post-2435545
Stage 2: https://forum.cyclingnews.com/threads/race-design-thread.15517/page-314#post-2435547
Stage 3: https://forum.cyclingnews.com/threads/race-design-thread.15517/page-314#post-2435554
Stage 4: https://forum.cyclingnews.com/threads/race-design-thread.15517/page-314#post-2435579
Stage 5: https://forum.cyclingnews.com/threads/race-design-thread.15517/page-314#post-2435590
Stage 6: https://forum.cyclingnews.com/threads/race-design-thread.15517/page-314#post-2435594
Stage 7: https://forum.cyclingnews.com/threads/race-design-thread.15517/page-314#post-2435596
Stage 8: https://forum.cyclingnews.com/threads/race-design-thread.15517/page-314#post-2435600

Next, I may be continuing a Giro I started 2 years ago lol. Or maybe another 1-week Turkey ( if I do this, it will probably be focused around Aegean and Meditarrenean region, in similar geography to 2013-2014 editions. ). Or maybe something else, may be another Vuelta for example.
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Next project now for me, and time for me to go for something that represents a bit of innovation for me at least - not in that it’s an especially new or creative idea, but more that it’s out of the way of my usual, typical patterns of race design. However, it is worth noting that for several years now, the UCI has been trying to make cycle racing “a thing” in Asia, which has largely been resisted; the attempts at imposing top level races in China from above have largely been restricted to end-of-season jollies that attract few top names and precious little significant attention from the fans in the sport’s heartlands, for whom the races are on at inconvenient times of day and come at a time when the season has effectively ended in terms of relevant or important races. At the other end of the spectrum, the general consensus on the UCI Asia Tour is that it has little relevance and is hard to judge - a number of .2 stage races with limited testing and few top teams permeate much of its season, thus rendering it a bit of a wild west, and certainly many of the races are still recovering their reputation from a few years of being dominated by the aptly-named Tabriz Petrochemical Team, as a parade of Iranian climbers, most of whom with doping bans in their history, laid waste to the calendar, save for the occasional Indonesian race where a 40-year-old French bike mechanic would triumph over them. Elsewhere on the Asia Tour, a few expat Europeans have had their fun - for example there’s a mini-scene of Frenchmen and in particular Spaniards who make their living in Japanese domestic cycling, with Thomas Lébas, Damien Monier, Óscar Pujol, Marcos García, Benjamí Prades (and briefly his brother Edu, now with Movistar), José Vicente Toribio and Paco Mancebo among those who’ve moved from the European pro scene to make their living over there.

There’s even some equivalent Grand Tours for the Asia Tour scene, in the Tour de Langkawi and the Tour of Qinghai Lake, being 10 and 13 days respectively, and often seeing local teams bring in short-term ringers, often from South America or CIS states, to supplement their lineups. There are Chinese teams with Kazakh or Ukrainian leaders, Malaysian teams with Russian imports and Thai teams with French or Dutch influence, just as the Japanese teams have their Spanish contingent. In fact, the Asia Tour is perhaps the nearest thing we have to what the old Eastern Bloc was like, with guest teams and riders, races which pit some people who are pretty much genuine top level pros against a field varying from ex-World Tour riders and prospects all the way down to part-timers, students and bike mechanics. It’s shorn of the bluster of the top level, so it’s like I said about the Vuelta a la Independencia Nacional - a window into a different world of cycling. So realistically, you’d think that I’d have got involved in drawing up races on the Asia Tour far more than I have. In fact, through the years this thread has run the sum total of my course designing in Asia has been a six-day Tour of Almaty (which was designed before there was a real Tour of Almaty), a short stage race and a World Championships route in the Russian Far East (if that even counts!) and a Nordic Series post on the 2018 Winter Olympic courses in Pyeongchang. Apart from that, nothing has been posted, although I do have the occasional race that has been put together - some of which I really ought to post, such as a Tour de Langkawi that I was quite proud of for varying things a lot more than the real race, which is often a carnival of sprints with one stage to Genting Highlands.

The Coronavirus has, however, left me exploring a lot of the route design possibilities of Asia, largely because of one thing: the HTV Cycling Cup.


I absolutely loved the HTV Cycling Cup. There was no competition so they went all out. There were few teams because none of the guest teams could take place. There were a number of crits that padded out the race length. There were no stars and the presentation had some amateurish charm (as well as having a TV host whose name was - I kid you not - The Man). But it was great - tactical naïveté and some of the strange idiosyncrasies of Vietnamese cycling meant it wasn’t quite so predictable as it could have been with higher level riders, although the two imported riders in the domestic scene, France’s Loïc Désriac, who married a Vietnamese woman after a brief dalliance with the top level a few years ago, and Spain’s Javier Sardá Pérez, showed that the level in the scene is perhaps not great, as the latter has won the race two years in a row, a few years after being a not-especially-distinguished rider in Spain’s amateur scene. Nevertheless, they’re moving in the right direction and they’ve piqued my interest. To the point where I designed an entire HTV Cup route.

But that’s not why I’m here. The frustrating thing about the HTV Cup is the end in Hồ Chí Minh City; for geographic reasons I had wanted to head from there to a finish in Hà Nội. My route was designed to be the next level up for the HTV Cup, but I decided the route needed tweaking and so my Asia Tour odyssey would need to start elsewhere. But where? Google’s mapping algorithm doesn’t work in China as they use a different satellite imprint so the roads have traditionally been hard to map for this thread. Japan I’ve been tempted by a number of times, but it has the same problem as Italy, or Austria - there’s just too much choice, and getting in everything I want means a ridiculous parcours of GT length with nothing but mountain stages. So I went for perhaps the most cosmopolitan and unpredictable race of the group, the Tour de Taiwan.


In this universe, this relatively maligned 2.1 race is the race which has been earmarked for progression. It’s in recent years shrunk from a 9-10 day event to a 5 day race which steers clear of much of the interesting terrain the island has to offer, but I’m here to reverse that trend. If you’ve looked at Taiwan on a relief map, you’ll know that only half of the island fulfils the stereotype of a congested, overpopulated expansive business district; the other half is all mountains and rivers and valleys and passes perfect for cycling. So we’re going to see a bit of everything the island has to offer. But we’re not going to leave the Asia Tour behind, so there will be some short stages, some odd stages, and so forth, in our loop around Taiwan. This race takes place in early March, so can sometimes benefit from higher level teams who aren’t doing World Tour races yet and are getting miles in the legs in Asia, also racing Langkawi, for example; this together with Taiwan’s rather exceptional status - it can’t even enter a national team as they for diplomatic/political reasons are entered as a Chinese Taipei National Team instead due to the limited (read: pretty much nobody who wants to stay in the good graces of mainland China) recognition of the Republic of China which rules over the island - mean that you often get an odd lineup at the race even compared to fellow UCI Asia Tour races.

However, with Giant and Merida both being based in Taiwan, as well as a further manufacturing conglomerate responsible for building many of the bikes branded under many names such as Trek, Felt and Jamis and the wheel manufacturers Kenda, there’s the possibility that if this race was pushed hard, you could see some reasonably-sized teams turn up to Taiwan to race. With some - but far from all admittedly - of the Chinese teams being interested in racing, you could have a fairly worthwhile starting lineup.

UCI World Teams:
Bahrain-Merida (sponsored by Taiwanese bike brand, they would likely send a team including Feng Chun-Kai and also probably Yukiya Arashiro, who is from Okinawa so this is pretty much his home race)
CCC (riding Giant, they would probably send a team largely built around their youngsters like Sajnok and Valter, also Patrick Bevin has some good history here).

UCI Pro Teams:
Burgos-BH (they’ve raced Taiwan a couple of times before)
Nippo-Delko-Provence (as have they)
Vini Zabu-KTM (often race Langkawi so could be enticed into an Asian mini-season, did the race last year)

There’s then a lot of Continental teams that could enter, as the race tends to attract an eclectic mix of teams. There are 12 (twelve) Chinese Continental teams, of whom I’d say Ssois-Moigee (who have been there before) with their international roster, Shenzhen Xidesheng with their Ukrainians and Ningxia Sports Lottery with the Kazakh and Iranian imports, though Hengxiang would be most interesting with Lü Xianjing. There’s also the Giant team who would presumably have sponsor interests. There’s also the Hong Kong-based HKSI team with ex-Mitchelton rider Cheung King-Lok and Fung Ha Koo, although politics may play a role for them. Japan has 10 Continental teams, a few of which have international riders and pretensions - Aisan, Kinan and Utsonomiya Blitzen are notable, but the most prominent and the ones that travel overseas most are Matrix-Powertag and Team Ukyo, run and led by former Formula 1 driver and mountaineer Ukyo Katayama and featuring sponsorship money from the makers of the popular vocaloid Hatsune Miku, basically an anime-style embodiment of autotune software (ugh). Ukyo’s Benjamí Prades is a former winner, plus as he grows older they’ve supplemented the roster with an Australian contingent led by Nathan Earle. There are two Malaysian teams with international pretensions built around the Tour de Langkawi who will want to maximise return on investment - they have names like Danilo Celano, Pierpaolo Ficara and Serghei Tvetcov in Team Sapura, while Terengganu have Youcef Reguigui, Carlos Quintero and Artëm Ovechkin. There’s also five domestic Australian teams, who often add some interest to the race, and St. George in particular look strong, with riders like Ryan Cavanagh and Kiwi Dylan Kennett having scored strong Asia Tour results of late - the former even being 2nd in the 2020 Tour de Taiwan, albeit behind compatriot Nicholas White, who won the race for Team BridgeLane. Throw in the occasional wildcard team - a couple of North American teams, maybe Memil Pro Cycling or Kern Pharma, both of whom have Taiwanese riders, and a national team (branded as Chinese Taipei, as always in officially sanctioned events), and you’ve got a solid lineup.

The race in its present form is about five stages which head through the flatter, more populated northwestern half of the island. It has at times been up to 10 stages however, and so I’m going for the longer version because that gives me the chance to adequately explore the opportunities on the island and produce a fairly comprehensive Tour of Taiwan.

Stage 1: Taipei City - Taipei City, 115km



Fu De Keng (cat.3) 3,3km @ 4,8%

But before we start innovating and exploring… we’re going to do nothing of the sort. Every year from 2014 to the present day, the Tour of Taiwan has kicked off with a circuit race on the same 10,4km circuit around Taipei City Hall. I’m no different, although to coincide with the race being given a fictitious new veneer of importance, I’m adding a little circuit with a hill in it so that the GPM sponsors can get to see their jersey on the podium on day 1. Apart from that, we stick to tradition.


It is obviously no surprise to see the capital of the de facto Republic of China appear on the route - it’s the cultural and administrative hub around which the entire nation revolves. And, as mentioned, it has hosted stage 1 of the Tour of Taiwan for each of the last seven editions. Now surrounded by New Taipei City, its modern offshoot that now has expanded with the rapid explosion of population in Taiwan, and now Taipei City itself accounts for just over 1/3 of the seven and a half million inhabitants of its metropolitan area, making it a top 50 city in the world by population.

Everything about Taipei is in some ways a hybrid of the modern and the traditional. Like Hong Kong and Macau, the two special administrative areas of the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan has largely eschewed the simplified Chinese characters that have been pressed into service on the mainland in order to improve literacy, and the traditional characters are favoured; various Sinitic languages are in currency in the city, and although Mandarin is the official language, Hakka is commonly spoken by the man and woman in the street. Even its very name is a relic; many of the former Wade-Giles romanisation standard names for cities and places in Chinese-speaking Asia have been replaced, however although Hanyu Pinyin was adopted officially in 2008 in Taiwan, many relics of Wade-Giles’ system remain, both in personal names and in place names; Taipei would be rendered Táibĕi in the official system. The name Taipei literally means “north Taiwan”, and as a result Taipak also has some currency, for this is the Hakka equivalent. For a period the city also took the name Taihoku, a Japanese calque of its name, during the period of Japanese rule following the first Sino-Japanese war.

It is a late addition to the realm of major world cities, having largely been a quiet backwater until the late 19th Century, when the steady trickle of Han Chinese immigrants that had begun 200 years earlier became a flood, and then after the acquisition of the island by the Japanese, the rapid development undertaken to improve the infrastructure of Taiwan and the administrative capacity of its capital, so much of Taipei’s centre bears this fin-de-siècle Japanese architectural hallmark. Some of this was destroyed during several bombing raids during WWII, after which Japan was forced to cede the island to the Kuomintang’s Republic of China, and two years later during the final phases of the Chinese Civil War, martial law was declared for the first time. Two further years later and Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang were forced to withdraw from the mainland, declaring Taipei to be the nominal capital of the Republic of China with an official capital at Nanjing, but over time this has softened to a consolidation of the rule in the island, with Nanjing having long been Communist-held.

No longer having the resources of the mainland to call upon, the industrialisation of Taiwan under the ROC was rapid, and Taipei expanded exponentially in a very short space of time, reaching 1 million by the early 1960s and continuing to grow since, albeit at a slower pace that then reached a fairly stable level in the 1990s. Martial Law was eventually halted in 1987, after an uninterrupted 38 year period, then the longest in the world, and the country transitioned to a multi-party democracy after the western fashion and opened itself to the world as a tourist destination; it is now the 15th most visited city in the world and tourism accounts for a significant amount of the country’s GDP, with people coming to see everything from cultural centres like the Old City Museum and the Shung Ye Museum of the Formosan Aborigines to institutions like Shilin Night Market through to modern glass-and-iron behemoths like Taipei 101, which held the title of tallest building in the world until the Burj Khalifa was completed. I shan’t go into too many depth on its tourist destinations though - we may meet some later.


Taipei has also served as a stand-in for many a Chinese destination in film, in much the same way as filmmakers would use Helsinki as a stand-in for St. Petersburg in the Cold War thrillers of the 60s and 70s. Hong Kong studios used Taiwan for external shots of mountains, lakes and valleys that were difficult to film in in crowded Hong Kong, so legendary filmmakers like John Woo and Wong Kar-Wai have used Taipei as a base in classic films, while the city has also been used as a means to smuggle films out of Communist China too. Taiwan is largely trying to keep up with its neighbours in terms of establishing the country as a sporting destination though, hosting the Summer Universiade in 2017 and focusing on particular favourite sports in the city, notably baseball, which has become popular in the country thanks to a combination of Japanese colonial past and American cultural influence deriving from the need felt by the US to support the anti-Communist government in the post-war era, much as they propped up many dictators and autocrats in Latin America through fear of Communist influence - though with the PRC just across the strait, one can surmise that said fears may have at least had a solid founding in Taiwan. Cycling has also featured, with the city hosting the Asian Continental Championships in 2001, won by Wong Kam Po for Hong Kong.

Taipei, as capital and most populous city of Taiwan, has many a distinguished celebrity offspring, but I’ll run through a few quickly as fortunately the city’s short history means most are relatively recent. The performing arts, particularly film and television, account for a large number, from the superstar of Hong Kong and Taiwanese cinema Brigitte Lin (I first encountered her in Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express where I didn’t quite grasp how much of a controversial move his casting of her was; given her level of stardom at the time, casting her in a blonde wig and aviators as wearing a ‘westerner’ disguise was a bold call, akin to Michael Fassbender performing in Frank with a large model head obscuring his face, after all she was in Police Story!) and the Taiwanese-born Japanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro (who plays the third cop in Chungking Express, the one that we actually see on duty rather than stopping by the food stall around which the film’s events transpire while on a break) to those who’ve found a new lease of life in America, such as Shu Qi, or director Justin Lin who was responsible for some of the instalments in the Fast and the Furious franchise. US TV actresses Christina Chang and Camille Cheng are also Taipei natives, as are Mandopop sensations such as megastar Jolin Tsai, as well as other singers such as Peggy Hsu and Selina Ren of manufactured pop act SHE, then there’s the tragic Xu Weilun, killed in a car accident at 28, and the more alternative singer and actor Jay Chou. Of course, aside from this Taiwan is well known throughout the world for its information sector, so it’s no surprise that internet entrepreneurs would spring from the city, with Yahoo! and YouTube’s founders originating in Taipei too.


Typical stage 1 Tour de Taiwan

Of course, the actual stage circuit is not especially interesting - it’s an out-and-back along the tree-lined Ren'Ai Road (仁愛路), one of the most famous thoroughfares in Taipei, linking the City Hall with the East Gate, a scenic Oriental gate with the modernist Evergreen Maritime Museum directly behind it.


We are close to various other Taipei landmarks - the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Central Library and the Liberty Square Arch. The interesting thing will be that there are three corners - one 90º and two slightly more than 90º, albeit on wide open roads, and even a short stretch of cobbles - within the last 600m, which seems odd but they seem to be able to negotiate it without trouble every year. The stage is, basically, one out-and-back along the Ren’Ai Road, then a 20km circuit including a short climb and then looping back, and then finishing with 8 laps of the circuit - which is usually the normal length of the stage as a whole, as 8 x 10,4km = 83,2km.

Even before settling on the current format, a circuit race in Taipei has been part of every Tour of Taiwan in the last 15 years, with criteriums and circuit races being the order of the day, although it took a while for the permanent home of the stage on the Ren’Ai Road to be found. In 2006, veteran Aussie Robert McLachlan won a criterium around the City Hall, and Japan’s Satoshi Hirose won from a break in an identical stage a year later. In 2008, no fewer than three circuit races were arranged in Taipei, with Kyle Gritters besting Valeriy Kobzarenko in a two-up in the city centre, Wong Kam Po winning a criterium at the Nangang Exhibition Hall, and finally Marek Wesoly winning a sprint at the Taipei World Trade Center. Krzysztof Jezowski won an interesting hilly stage around the Taipei region before his teammate Tomasz Kiendys won a sprint in the city itself in 2009 as CCC (the original team) dominated. Tomasz Smolen continued the Polish dominance in the first of the repeat stages a year later, before Malaysian Muhammad Zainal won the criterium to break the sequence.

For 2011-12 Taipei moved to the start of the race, as it is now, with a prologue won by Drapac’s Adam Phelan and a criterium won by KSPO’s Park Sung-Baek in 2011, then Anthony Giacoppo winning the 52km race - 5 laps of the current circuit - in 2012. A year later it was back at the end of the race - Hayato Yoshida winning for Shimano Racing Team - before the current format was adopted. In 2014 and 2015 it remained a 52km mini-stage, but since then the current eight laps were adopted. Winners in that period of time have been at a calibre of riders who are at least on higher level teams if not more prominent as the race looks to progress - Luke Keough for United Healthcare, Wouter Wippert for Drapac, Will Clarke also for Drapac, Edwin Ávila for Illuminate, Bryan Steven Gómez for Manzana-Postobón, and Eric Young for Elevate - the lone wolf still flying the flag for Asian cycling is Hayato Okamoto, who won the stage and pulled on the maillot jaune for Aisan Cycling Team in 2018.

My stage is a bit longer, but will probably result in the same kind of outcome.

Ok, here we go with my Pais Vasco style Tour de Suisse.

Stage 1: Lausanne Prologue; 4km


We are in Switzerland, so a Prologue still gets called stage 1, that one has become a tradition.
This one it really straight forward and with very few corners, on such a short route that means that the guys with a Track pursuit background and the strong sprinters will have the ability to compete with the TT-specialists.
Lausanne is the capital of the canton Vaud that lies on the shores of Lake Lémanand. It hosts the IOC, the CAS and numerous international sport associations.
Some Tennis fans might now that it's the birthplace of Stan Wavrinka.
Not a lot to say about this one, it's gonna be short, sweet and to the point.
Stage 2 Lausanne - Martigny, 139km


The 2nd stage starts once again in Lausanne, the riders will ride southwards for 43km on flat terrain without any obstacles, then the first cat. 1 climb of the race starts. Col de la Croix, 28.4km at 4.8% with a flat section in the middle of the climb, a proper climb witth around 1,375m of altitude gain.

The following descent is 23km long, but not very technical.
Then we have 30km of false flat, after 21km the riders will ride past Martigny for the first time.
Now the first (and most extreme) Murito of the race starts, Col du Rodoz, 2.2km at 18.4%, a real vinejard goattrack like the roads around Bolzano/Bozen (think about the Alte Jenesier Straße or the old road to Oberbozen).
The climb: https://www.cronoescalada.com/index.php/puertos/view/13864
It's the first 2km of this climb:




As you can see the road is actually wider than your typical Vuelta goattrack, so it could actually be used without too many problems.
The heat could be a big factor, there's no shelter in those vineyards and durning the hottest days of the summer the temperatures can go up to 40°C here, probably not durning the TdS, but it could be the first real heatwave of the year for most of the riders.
The following descent is on a wider road, but still rather steep so there won't be any problems.
The final 7.5km after the descent are flat and will bring the riders to the finish line in Martigny, the bithplace of Swiss cyclist Sébastian Reichenbach and the Slaom ace Daniel Yule.

This one should be carnage, the final murito is so hard that a selection is pretty much bound to happen, we will see who the strongest riders are on the sup steep slopes. The flat part after the descent adds another element, depending on the situation on the road a chasing group could catch back up, while a single chaser could loose even more time.
That looks absolutely brutal even by País Vasco standards.

Stage 2: Keelung - Luodong, 137km



Wanshan Temple (cat.2) 6,1km @ 6,3%
Shigongjiweishan (cat.2) 7,1km @ 5,8%
Yilan Workers’ Monument (cat.3) 8.6km @ 3,0%
Meishan Road (cat.3) 2,9km @ 4,8%
Meishan Road (cat.3) 2,9km @ 4,8%

Stage two, and the hills are being introduced. We need to warm the legs up for the race to come, you see. I’m not having a mediocre flat roll around the western half of the island allowed on MY watch.


Keelung City (基隆市), the depart for stage 2, is part of the extended metropolitan area of Taipei City - in fact it borders the administrative area of New Taipei City close to where it engulfs Taipei itself. It is the second largest marine port in Taiwan, and was well known to Europeans prior to the 20th Century as a result. It is another city which sticks to Wade-Giles romanisation - it would be known as Jīlóng or Kelâng in modern transcription (depending on if the official Mandarin or local Hokkien were used). The name literally translates as ‘chicken coop’, but it is believed that this is a folk etymology derived from the attempts by the Han settlers to pronounce the name of the local settlers in this area. It also has the nickname of “Rainy Port” due to its climactic conditions compared to the country’s other major port city, Kaohsiung, which is better sheltered from storms coming in from the Pacific. It was once a Spanish outpost, run from the Spanish East Indies, which largely comprise what are now known as the Philippines. The Dutch also established short-lived colonies here, but then after trouble with the aboriginal natives the area was unknown to Europeans until Great Britain decided to use it as a potential trade outpost in the mid-19th Century, using the mountainous geography of Taiwan’s east coast as a means to disguise their intentions and set up in the north of the country, but were forced to bid a hasty retreat to Hong Kong after storms wrecked their ships. Coal and gold from the mountains increased the interest in the region, however, and the Chinese swiftly colonised the island as a whole and turned Keelung into a key outward bound trade post - facing the mainland made Kaohsiung a more important port to them, but the proximity of Keelung to the major natural resources and wealth made it attractive. The French were the next to try and fail to take it, but the Japanese were successful. As a result, the city’s port became more important than Kaohsiung because it faced Japan, Okinawa and the Ryukyuan islands, and it was almost destroyed in WWII as a result because it became the prime target on Taiwan.

With the rapid expansion of the country’s economy after the war, the richness in coal in the region meant that by the end of the 60s Keelung was the 7th busiest container port in the world - yet ironically its power is largely supplied by Taiwan’s only oil power plant. It is the hometown of former Premier Jiang Yihua, and Mandopop star, ex-boy band member and entertainer Show Lo - although it has to be said, it looks like some of his success now looks a little different after it was alleged his highly influential entertainment chat and music show would bar female performers that spurned his advances, and his previously pristine public image was dragged through the mud by a very messy and acrimonious split from Chinese social media star Grace Chow. Nevertheless, he retains a strong brand image and is one of the most recognisable and renowned faces in East Asia.

However, getting out of Keelung necessitates travelling through the northernmost hills and mountains of Taiwan, because this part of the island really, really isn’t flat.


View down towards Keelung from the historic tea village of Jiufen

The dramatic scenery starts early, you see, as we’re heading straight for the hills early in the stage. Almost straight away the climbing beginis, with a cat.2 ascent to the Wanshan temple at the pass beneath the peak of Wufenshan, which boasts a meteorological station and could be a reasonable MTF for the real race if they’re not going to dare do the kind of all-out brutality I will. I’m only interested in the straightforward cat.2 elements though, before we descend down to the Shifen Waterfall, one of Taiwan’s great tourist attractions and a popular day trip from Taipei.


Of course, people don’t just spend a day looking at the waterfall. The nearby village of Shifen has its famous Old Street, with trinket stalls, markets and everything else backing directly off of the train tracks. We then have a second cat.2 ascent to the pass beneath Shigongjiweishan, and this one is just over 7km at just under 6%. We’re early in the stage so this won’t be particularly decisive but it shows that there’s plenty of terrain to work with, and hopefully makes the real race organisers realise what a horrible job riding around the flat and heavily developed parts of the country does for the race - it is better for sponsors to ride around quieter areas and build the International audience for the race, because while people may tune in to a race that just links promotional site to promotional site, if the race isn’t very interesting, they won’t tune back ini. Anyway. After this there is a rolling section that gives way to another climb, this time a longer one that only gets category 3 status owing to being little more than false flat, before we take a twisting, scenic descent into the floodplains of the Lanyang river.

The Lanyang basin is basically the flattest part of the eastern half of Taiwan, so the riders will be glad for a bit of respite as the next phase of the stage is pan-flat floodplain racing, although there is the possibility of wind coming in from the east over the Pacific. We pass through Jiaoxi (formerly Chiaohsi, as this town, unlike Taipei and Keelung, has switched its Wade-Giles transcription to a Pinyin one), a popular resort town known for its hot springs and its proximity to the Houdongkeng and Wufengqi waterfalls. This then leads us on to Yilan city, the capital of this region, which sits on the north bank of the Lanyang at its confluence with the Yilan river, from which the city takes its name. Being protected from the rest of the island by mountains on all sides, this was the land of Kavalan aborigines until the 19th Century, when it was first developed by the Qing Dynasty thanks to the rice-growing potential of the region, and then subsequently by the Imperial Japanese, due to its being part of the area in Formosa facing toward Okinawa and the rest of Japan. Today it is a city of 95.000 inhabitants, but we just pass through it with 50km left in the stage, and instead cross the river to head to neighbouring Luodong, a slightly smaller city around which the final part of the stage takes place.


Luodong Night Market (羅東夜市)

Luodong, sometimes called Lotung after its Wade-Giles transcription, is slightly smaller than its provincial capital - it houses around 75.000 people - but its main attraction is its Yèshì, or Night Market, which is one of the busiest in the island, specialising in affordable clothing and street food, the latter of which is particularly based around Gongyuan Road.

Outside of its bustling market district, Luodong is known as the hometown of the veteran actress and television host Lin Mei-Hsiu (林美秀), who has a lengthy history in film and television, as well as perhaps most prominently to Western audiences providing voice acting through a series of Mandarin dubs of Disney and Pixar animated films, and also of the impressionist painter Ran In-Ting, nowadays transcribed as Lan Yinding, whose images of Taiwanese village life and landscapes have made him one of the island’s most famous artistic cultural figures. We pass through Luodong with just under 40km to go, and then there are two laps of a 19,7km circuit around the town to finish the stage, so the two intermediate sprints take place on the first two passes through the finishing line.


View into the floodplain from the final climb

The stats on my profile make this climb look harder than it is. It’s very inconsistent but it’s not as steep as that. This is enough to give a platform for attacking from but unlikely to be an especially decisive one, certainly not in the context of the race as a whole. It comes just before the mid-point of the circuit, so there are 11,7km from the peak of the climb down to the finishing line. It ramps up to 13% quickly but briefly before flattening out in an initial 500m averaging 6%, then there’s a flattish 500m. The climb then ramps up at. An average of 7% over 650m, the last 150m of which are at almost 15%. It then eases off again with 400m at 5%, then another ramp of 10% as part of 600m at 6% and then flattening out again. As you can see, a couple of platforms to attack from, but nothing that’s going to create huge time gaps. The descent has a good few technical turns, but isn’t too steep, and after that the final 8-9km through Dongshan back to Luodong are very. Straight and flat and will favour the chasers. There are a couple of 90º left-handers in the final run-in, one at 900m to go onto Gongzheng Road and one onto Xindong Road at 350m to go, before a finish outside Yilanzhongshan Park on the outer edge of the night market district. This could go to a puncheur or baroudeur who escapes, especially if a group decides to make a fist of it on the Meishan Road climb, or the bunch could control them and bring it back to a sprint, especially if the first half of the stage has been raced quietly.


Entrance to Yilanzhongshan Park (宜蘭中山公園), next to the stage finish
What do people here aim for when designing races in countries that don't have much cycling culture? Do you aim for a realistic race, with start and finish places in similar geographies as real ones with using places that can realistically afford a stage start/finish, or do you try to use the obscure parts of country as well?