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Race Design Thread

Page 347 - Get up to date with the latest news, scores & standings from the Cycling News Community.
You will be hard pressed to run a cycling stage race in Hong Kong . You would have to go out to the New territories which has less traffic and some diverse terrain. Will say that if you ran a stage up to the Peak you would have a tough climb and a terrifying descent.
Stage 2: Tsim Sha Tsui - Tsim Sha Tsui, 15,0km (ITT)



The out-and-back theme continues with stage 2 being a short-to-mid-length ITT, to create some larger-than-a-prologue kind of GC gaps, seeing as most people will be on the bunch time (give or take bonus seconds) after stage 1. This is going to be a literal out-and-back, essentially heading out for 7,5km and then retracing our steps to finish directly opposite the start, as we head along Victoria Harbour and take in some of the scenery and the history, contrasting modern high rise developments and modern reconstruction projects with some remnants of colonial Hong Kong that will be recognisable to all.

The start/finish of the ITT is in Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙嘴, Jīmsājéui in Yale, a form of transcription applying pinyin rules to Cantonese pronunciation, or 尖沙咀 in simplified characters), the southern tip of Kowloon and located on a cape opposite Hong Kong Island, the original colony held by the British before the ceding of Kowloon to self-same Britons in the Convention of Peking in 1860. Before this, the area had held many villages which subsisted on fishing and trading with the British-held island across Victoria Harbour (or Chung Mun (or Zhong Men in modern Chinese - the characters are 中門) as it was called before British incursion); Tsim Sha Tsui translates as “sharp sand spit” and this reflects what it originally was before urban development in Kowloon and land reclamation projects took hold. The area is one of the main tourist centres of Hong Kong, with Hong Kong Cultural Centre, the Harbour City high end shopping district, and numerous museums dotting the coastline here. It’s also the ferry port for much of the area, with the small local ferry at the south of Harbour City serving transfers between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island as it has since 1888, and China Ferry Terminal at the other end of Harbour City being the main transfer between Hong Kong and Macau and, while the fact both are SARs of China nowadays means this is less busy than it was during colonial times when the two colonies depended rather heavily on one another for trade and connections, it is still a very popular and commonly-used transit point.


Kowloon from Hong Kong Island, Tsim Sha Tsui in the foreground, with the two ferry terminals clearly visible and the Cultural Centre on the seafront


Hong Kong island as viewed from Tsim Sha Tsui. Our start/finish is at the plaza in front of the round building which is Hong Kong Space Centre

Originally this area was reserved for the British garrison in Hong Kong, but in the early 20th Century it was opened up to Chinese in order to encourage more trade. To this end, also, it was the site of the original terminus of the Kowloon-Canton Railway (i.e. Hong Kong to Guangzhong), although with the exception of its clock tower which has become a cultural icon of Hong Kong, the station was dismantled in 1978 after the establishment of a new terminus in Hung Hom, and the Cultural Centre now occupies its place. It’s also the site of iconic Hong Kong landmark, the Peninsula Hotel, which is opposite the Space Centre and therefore also gives its credence to our start/finish. This was the first hotel of the luxury Peninsula brand, a five star luxury dwelling including gourmet restaurants of many kinds, one of Hong Kong’s oldest fashion arcades, a fleet of Rolls Royces in a specialised livery unique to the hotel, mentioned in The Man With The Golden Gun and appearing in The Dark Knight, and where the British surrendered in person to the Japanese when defeated in Hong Kong during World War II.


Since the handover in 1997, and especially since the opening of Chep Lai Kok airport, extensive redevelopment has taken place in Tsim Sha Tsui, retaining some of the colonial era glamour but with a shiny new modern face, with new, taller skyscrapers, new centres of commerce introducing more luxury brands, and redevelopment of mixed commercial/residential dwellings such as the historic Chungking Mansions, so beautifully immortalised by Wong Kar-Wai in Chungking Express, my personal favourite of his works. The harbour front has also seen extensive work and this has led to a lengthy promenade with wide boulevards alongside historic Salisbury Road.


This is the part of town which was used in the Hammer Series for their cringeworthily-named Hammer Sprint, on a short flat circuit which other than looping around the Empire Centre was otherwise an out-and-back along Salisbury Road and its extension onto Hung Hom Road. The same circuit was used for the TTT, and there was no third stage because this Hammer Series event somehow managed to be even worse than the other ones. Mitchelton-Scott won overall ahead of Team Sunweb because Cameron Meyer won a sprint on lap 6 of a 43km circuit race which was worth more points than the other sprints because reasons. This was the same circuit as used in earlier versions of the Hong Kong Cyclothon, such as the 2017 race, the first that was UCI-accredited as a pro race, with Matej Mohorič victorious. The modern Cyclothon has much more interesting 30- and 50km rides for amateurs while the pros take on an even shorter circuit that is more akin to a crit; Lukas Pöstlberger won in 2023, the first edition to run post-pandemic.

Once we’ve headed past this, we go through Hung Hom, past the new rail terminus, and to the Kowloon City Ferry Pier, with the rickety old manually-operated boats in the harbour that give a flavour of the past, with Kowloon Rock, a 3m x 2m literal rock which has become an icon in its own right, and the To Kwa Wan typhoon shelter. You will no doubt have seen this area - it is iconic enough in film, perhaps never more clearly than in the most famous movie made by arguably the most famous of all Hong Kong’s children, Lee Jun-fan (李振藩), better known by his Christian name of Bruce Lee - for this was where Lee’s iconic yellow-clad martial arts instructor departs Hong Kong to participate in Han’s underground martial arts tournaments on a private island in his final completed movie - and his most revered and classic - Enter the Dragon.


Once out on the boats, the scenes were filmed on the south side of Hong Kong Island, but the wide shots are of the harbour. But I wanted to get a shot with Bruce himself clearly visible.

After this we pass a brand new - to be inaugurated by the end of 2024 - sports complex that is part of a much-needed but still very sad regeneration project on the site of possibly the most notorious part of Hong Kong throughout its colonial history, the icon, the legend, the almost completely irreplaceable and inimitable Kai Tak airport.

Watch any Hong Kong movie with a contemporary setting (i.e. not period pieces, many of which were filmed in isolated parts of the New Territories or in Taiwan) and you will see references to and links with Kai Tak, the airstrip opened in 1925 in the early days of aviation and serving as Hong Kong’s primary international airport until the opening of Chep Lai Kok in 1998. The airport is famous for its challenges, for it presented some unique difficulties for aviation, especially post-WWII as planes became ever larger and aviation for commercial purposes became more crucial, as well as with the immense amount of cargo required to keep the ever-growing cities of the colony bustling with the life they engendered. The airstrip was ill-suited to these demands, but the lack of any suitable alternative meant that the aviation industry had to make do; extending the runway out into Kowloon Bay was the best compromise that could be had.

However, with a runway running NW-SE, water on three sides of the runway and not one but two ridges of mountainous terrain to the north (the further away being the higher, as well, preventing a straighter approach with a stepped descent) and restrictions on use of Chinese airspace, planes could not line up with the runway in the conventional manner the majority of the time; no ILS could be set up because planes would not be able to intercept it until they were in line with the runway centre line, which there would be no time to do. Instead, therefore, pilots, air traffic controllers and administrators found a solution which was every bit as ingenious as it would be totally unacceptable in today’s industry; they had pilots fly past Hong Kong island, pull a 180º turn directly over Lantau Island (just south of today’s airport on reclaimed land), and descend directly over Kowloon. Then, they painted a bright orange and white checkerboard pattern on a hillside, in two steps, so that the two would only align if the plane was on the correct path. Once the checkerboard had been sighted and the plane was lined up so that the checkerboard was not distorted or misaligned in any way, the pilots would initiate a steep 47º right hand turn to line up with the runway, literally returning to level flight about 140ft from the ground. An ILS was installed in 1974 but decentralised, based on the Checkerboard Hill approach, so it was unique in the world in that it guided planes not to the runway but actually to somewhere vaguely determined at an angle from the runway, after which pilots would have to break from the controlled systems and manually make the final turn, which greatly increased the amount of successful landings in poor weather. Flyers new to the experience would be horrified to see themselves able to see what people in the skyscrapers were watching on TV, banking steeply so close to the ground and with buildings on all sides; this experience became known as the Kai Tak Heart Attack.


Low turn at Checkerboard Hill


Since the approach could not be flown on instruments, special training was required, and ever since then other challenging approaches of similar nature are judged for their difficulty relative to Kai Tak which is regarded as the toughest of them all; Madeira Airport, for example, is known as “Europe’s Kai Tak”. The thing with Madeira, though, is that while wind shear is a major challenge and the low turn is longer (almost a full 180º), the consequences of a botched approach would be a plane going into the mountainside or the water; the same error at Kai Tak would see aircraft the size of Jumbo Jets ploughing into multiple skyscrapers - and yet it never happened, and the only major hull loss landing at Kai Tak was a China Airlines flight overshooting the runway and ending up in the runway, and in fact more issues were encountered on takeoff on the clear route over Victoria Harbour than in the infamous landing (though a tail strike on landing at Kai Tak in 1980 caused the damage that eventually led to the loss of China Airlines Flight 211 in 2002 following improper repairs). However, the expansion of urban areas in Hong Kong in the 1980s and 1990s meant demand was too large for the airport to handle as well as buildings becoming even closer to the runway than they already were; in the end the plan was approved to construct the new offshore airport at Chep Lai Kok and phase Kai Tak out of use, with - save for a short period where demand necessitated a reopening of Kai Tak’s cargo terminal - the last flights going out in July 1998.

Although some enthusiasts wished to keep part of the runway available for general aviation, the initial plans involved turning the far end of the runway into a cruise terminal. Until the mid-2000s the passenger terminal remained in use, hosting conferences, a golf course, go-kart racing and other entertainment facilities, but in the mid-2000s, it was pulled down and the last remnants of the iconic airport was gone. In 2004, a development plan was approved; the cruise terminal would be constructed, the former runway turned into a public park, the apron to a waterfront promenade, and then phase 2 was commenced. This included hotels and housing complexes in the middle portion of the runway, the Hong Kong sky garden (a glass walkway elevated above the street, opened 2021), a hospital (opened 2017) and infrastructural works on the north side, across the water from the runway; the final phase included the construction of Kai Tak Sports Park, which is due to open later this year and is the largest sporting venue in the SAR, with a 50.000-seat stadium, a 10.000-seat indoor arena, and further public sports venues, and is scheduled to host the National Games in 2025, China’s national Olympiad.


Kai Tak Sports Park and the near side of the runway

The far point of the TT route is after turning right after the stadium, and then following the new route down to the ferry terminal, thus taking us all the way along the new road along the former runway on Shing Fung Road (承豐道) underneath the Hong Kong Sky Garden, before reaching the roundabout at the far end.

From there, we retrace our steps exactly to return to Tsim Tsa Shui where the riders will finish on the other side of the road from where they started. It’s almost exactly 7,5km from the start to the hairpin, so this is an ITT of almost exactly 15km - long for a race of this length in current fashion but in relatively recent history fairly typical, looking at short stage races across varied terrain, like the good version of Castilla y León which had an MTF and an ITT of around this length, Burgos, País Vasco, Coppi e Bartali, the UAE Tour and so on. And we need to set some GC gaps ready for the days to come, so this should sort it.
Stage 3: Tsuen Wan - Tai Mo Shan, 124km



Fa Shan Tau (Route Twisk South)(cat.2) 6,1km @ 7,0%
Lam Tsuen Au (cat.3) 1,2km @ 8,9%
Fa Shan Tau (Route Twisk North)(cat.1) 4,9km @ 8,6%
Tai Mo Shan (cat.1) 4,6km @ 9,7%

Our “queen stage” is our sole mountaintop finish of the week, at Hong Kong’s highest peak, the famous “Cloud Mountain”, Tai Mo Shan. It’s a short mountain stage but it’s not the Unipuerto that the Asia Tour is used to, although it also isn’t some Zomegnan odyssey far beyond the realms of realism for the type of péloton that does those races, in the eventuality we don’t get a World Tour crowd.

Before we get to the business end of the stage, however, we begin the stage in Tsuen Wan, the northernmost tip of the contiguous Kowloon urban sprawl, and one of the more populous parts of the New Territories. It’s actually directly at the base of the climb, so we could go for a Tour of Japan Mount Fuji Hillclimb style stage, but I elected not to do that. Tsuen Wan (荃灣) is a town built on a bay and lies to the north of where the northern tip of the stage 1 circuit ended; home to just under 300.000, it has been settled for over 2000 years. The character 灣, pronounced Wan in Cantonese, means “bay” and there are competing etymologies for its first character. The most likely is that it has arisen out of contortion of 淺灣, Tsin Wan, meaning “shallow bay”, with the character for Tsuen then used to phonetically replicate local pronunciation in error during times of limited literacy. It was also spelled 賊灣, which is Tsak Wan in Cantonese or T’shet Wan in Hakka, meaning bay of pirates.


Western Monastery, Tsuen Wan

As the New Territories were more sparsely populated than Kowloon or Hong Kong Island, this remained a relatively small settlement well into the 20th Century, but urban sprawl started to hit it in the post-war era when rapid population expansion from Chinese escaping domestic conflict, and massive economic improvements, necessitated the expansion of Kowloon into these outlying areas, and as Tsuen Wan had been made far more readily accessible by the completion of Castle Peak Road in 1917, it grew exponentially in the 1940s and 50s, becoming the capital of Hong Kong’s textile industry. It was then expanded from a “satellite town” to an officially designated “new town” and housing estates constructed in this era expanded it to over 400.000 (the official reach of Tsuen Wan has since been reduced to reflect its expansion into outlying suburbs, hence the reduced population of today), while it also includes Hong Kong Discovery Park, one of the largest shopping precincts in the SAR. Little remains of the old fishing village, save for a thematic ‘living museum’ at Sam Tung Uk.


Tsuen Wan, with Tai Mo Shan in the background

The first half of the stage is a fairly simple one, a flat circuit of the kind we often see in the Asia Tour or that circuit of one-day and short stage races in Turkey that have mixed pélotons. This runs back and forth down the coastal stretch of Castle Peak Road, between Tsuen Wan and the western Hong Kong city of Tuen Mun. Tuen Mun (屯門) used to be known as Castle Peak (after Pui To Shan which overlooks it from the west) during the British colonial era, hence the name of Castle Peak Road, named for the bay it sits just inland from. A lot of smaller villages in the area were given various names that all began with Tuen Mun, and so this became the name of the entire area eventually when these all merged together and became a united urban agglomeration with the establishment in Tuen Mun in 1965. We ride back and forth on two laps of a 39km circuit along Castle Peak Road with a loop around Tuen Mun. This road can be seen in full in the following video which shows driving the route from Tuen Mun to Tsuen Wan.

We have a slightly hilly rolling route around Tsuen Wan at the end of each lap, underneath Ha Fa Shan, the Hausberg of Tai Mo Shan. We have intermediate sprints at the end of each of these two laps, before we then turn around and climb up toward Tai Mo Shan on the Route Twisk (荃錦公路), a mountain pass which connects Tsuen Wan and Shek Kong, with the name apparently due to a misinterpretation of the abbreviation “TW/SK” on planning maps. It was built for military use in the 1940s to help access Tai Mo Shan summit with its weather station and military installations, and then it was made public in 1961. At a little under 500m, we reach the high point of the public road, the pass at Fa Shan Tau, which is also the entrance to Tai Mo Shan National Park. This southern side is actually the easier side, averaging roughly 7% for just over 6%, before a steep descent into Shek Kong.


Route Twisk, south face

The summit of this climb is at 39km from the line, then we descend the steeper northern side, before a right turn and a short, sharp, steep climb to Lam Tsuen Au, which accesses the eponymous town, a subdistrict of Tai Po, famous for the Lam Tsuen wishing trees. We then loop around the northern part of the New Territories, circumnavigating the Pak Tai To Yan mountain that lies to the north of Tai Mo Shan, through to our final intermediate sprint in Sheung Shui (上水), the northern terminus of Castle Peak Road and the main urban area of North District. However, due to its proximity to the border and its role as that terminus, it is the main transit point into the country from Shenzhen, which has led to a number of issues where parallel traders re-import goods from Sheung Shui into mainland China, causing shortages in Hong Kong and resulting in trade limits being made between the SAR and the mainland and occasional protests arising in the North District, especially in Sheung Shui.

Another 10km of flat sets us up for our final climb, which is a legit cat.1 MTF, but I have split it out into two climbs, first the north side of Route Twisk, and then the Tai Mo Shan Road, which runs for a further 4,6km from the pass. The first 3km average over 10%, before a car park and a gate, which restricts access to the very summit and the weather station to only motor vehicles on governmental or military business. However, while I originally thought this would mean the summit would need to be here for racing purposes… the road is actually perfectly accessible to bicycles and pedestrians as long as bicycles stick to the paved road, which finishes at the weather station at around 900m. There is some further paving in a restricted area up to 957m, the highest point in the Hong Kong SAR, but we cannot go above this level. It is however the highest accessible point in the country, and a well worthy MTF. The overall climb is 9,8km @ 8,6%, but there’s a brief flat/slight downhill at the plateau at the pass before we turn left onto the summit road.


Main part of the road, prior to the car park


Summit road


View down into Tsuen Wan and down to Kowloon and Hong Kong Island from Tai Mo Shan

This is the main MTF of the race, and with time gaps generated in the pan-flat TT on stage 2, there will be a need to make use of it. There are plenty of 9% gradients in the bottom part of the climb (Route Twisk north), but after the turn onto Tai Mo Shan Road, it gets very steep indeed, with sections at 12-14% and 4,6km at 9,7% overall. This will be where the climbers come to the fore and so after a stage for the rouleurs and a stage for the grimpeurs, we should now be set up well for the second half of the race.
Stage 4: Tai Po - Tai Po, 144km



Bride’s Pool Waterfall (cat.3) 1,2km @ 5,3%

Tai Po (大埔, originally written 大步 - there is some confusion as to whether the second character was originally meant with the third tone, meaning ‘port’, or the sixth, meaning ‘step’, as Cantonese has more distinct tones than standard Chinese, and the area’s trading history means it is unclear whether the name derived from Cantonese locals or from Hakka or other Yue groups trading along the South China Sea) is one of the oldest inhabited places in Hong Kong, with attested settlement since the Stone Age. The name refers to a whole area of eastern New Territories, but specifically refers to the Tai Po New Town, a planned town that essentially merged Tai Po Market and Tai Po Old Market with new settlements completing the prior gap between the two. The area is commonly used for ITTs in national cycling in Hong Kong, hosting the national championships in the format in 2011, 2015, 2018, 2019, 2022 and 2023 (the most recent winner being Chu Tsun Lai, a 23 year old prospect) as well as TT stages of the Tour of South China Sea in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002. The national Road Race has also taken place in Tai Po in 2011 and 2018.


Kwong Fuk Road, Tai Po - the start/finish for our stage

With Castle Peak Road the main logistical hub for the western side of Hong Kong, Tai Po was a major stopping point on the Kowloon-Canton (i.e. Guangzhou) railway (and for this reason it now houses the Hong Kong Railway Museum), but long before this it was an established trading spot, with Tolo Harbour and the islands therein revealing archaeological sites showing a history of pearl farming going back thousands of years. This peaked during the Song Dynasty, but then started to decline, and by the early Qing Dynasty had almost entirely been replaced by a fishing economy. It largely fell under the influence of the Tang Clan (鄧族), one of the five great clans of the New Territories, and the largest and most famous - in the west this is often erroneously attributed as the origin for the hip-hop group the Wu-Tang Clan, but their name actually came from a fictitious oppositional group to the Shaolin monks in wuxia cinema, translated as “Wudang Sect” nowadays, but in old Wade-Giles transcription and with interpretation based on Cantonese use of characters rather than Mandarin, “sect” became replaced by “clan”. During British colonial times, the town acquired its railway station and grew into the fashion of a typical British style market town in terms of its amenities, with Tai Po Old Market (a neighbouring town) retaining more of its traditional character, being isolated from the railway but close to Tai Po Market with the two balancing off one another; the area remained in that fashion until the economic expansion of Hong Kong in the second half of the 20th Century made the establishment of New Towns in the New Territories a necessity, with the urban expansion connecting the two from the mid-1970s onwards, the term “Tai Po” has become ambiguous, being used variously to mean the old heart of Tai Po Market (Tai Po Old Market tends to exclusively be called by that name), the Tai Po New Town developments, the urban agglomeration as a whole, or the entire region of eastern New Territories in which the area lies.


Tai Po from the air. Tai Po old market is in the top right, Tai Po Market, the main core of the town and where our start/finish is is on the left centre, the original Tai Po New Town development is the high-rises between the two, then there are the later expansions along the Lam Tsuen estuary toward the bottom and the industrial estate at the very bottom

This stage consists of four laps of a 36km circuit which starts and finishes on Kwong Fuk Road, the main thoroughfare of Tai Po Market. It’s a mostly flat stage with some undulating sections, and is the most suited stage for the sprinters of the week, as much like stage 1 there is only the one climb on the circuit, but not only is the circuit much longer meaning far fewer times to ascend that climb, but also the climb is both easier and far further from the finish. As such this will be a convenient recovery day after two GC-relevant days for many of the riders, although there are some uncategorised digs up and down here and there on the circuit as well. Nevertheless, none of these are the type that should create any trouble for pro riders of any level. I mean, I haven’t even categorised the one larger ascent on three of the four laps because it’s not really meriting giving that many mountains points out, so much like stage 1 I have only categorised a quarter of the ascents, meaning only the one cat.3 climb for the day.

Our first port of call on the circuit is Tai Po Waterfront Park, which includes its icon the Tai Po Lookout Tower, a 32m tower with spiral ramp inaugurated in 1997, featuring information about the history of the region, its fight against the British following the acquisition of the New Territories and its resistance against Japanese invasion, as well as being a popular cycling spot, with the coast road from Tai Po to Tai Mei Tuk (大美督, literally meaning “The World’s End” owing to its outpost location) being a favourite of the people of Hong Kong, cycling out to Ting Kok and on to Tai Mei Tuk which houses a watersports centre, off-road cycling trails and stunning vistas, and is popular for barbecues and outdoor recreation as well as accessing the Plover Cove reservoir. Naturally, although we don’t use the Tai Po-Tai Mei Tuk Cycleway we will follow this road to give some public view to the scenery, and then the road takes a short uncategorised uphill dig (700m at 5,3%) to the Chun Fung pavilion, before we head around the shores of the reservoir.


We then circle the Pat Sing Leng massif (八仙嶺, meaning “Ridge of Eight Immortals” as it has eight peaks, each of which named for a different Immortal), which entails taking the western edge of the Plover Cove reservoir and then climbing up to the waterfalls from which the small river known as Bride’s Pool spring; this is our one categorised ascent of the day and the toughest climb on the circuit - at 1200m at 5,3% it really isn’t going to be breaking too many backs, but it’s something. It crests 13km into the circuit, so the final climb is 23km from the line - ample opportunity for the bunch to pull things back, you’d think, but you never know with small team sizes, late season races, or mixed ability pélotons.


Bride’s Pool waterfall in Plover Cove Country Park. The name comes from a legend where a bride carried in a sedan fell into the pool when being carried through stormy weather and drowned

This area is one of the more scenic in Hong Kong, being protested as part of the country park since 1978 and preventing development, owing to the large number of rare species inhabiting the area and also as it served as a natural boundary during the days of the colony. Descending back down to Starling Inlet, turning right here would take us to Sha Tau Kok, the easternmost border crossing with the People’s Republic until the handover and now the easternmost transit point between the SAR and the mainland. Instead we turn left and take a gradual - 1,3km at 3% - uphill to Wo Hang, to return to the inland plateau of the New Territories, and a less scenic but also less technical second half of the circuit well suited to the sprint trains, as we head directly toward Fanling 8km from the end of the circuit. Fanling (粉嶺) is largely a commuter town lying between Sheung Shui and Tai Po, but it does have a well-preserved old walled village, from the time this area was susceptible to pirate attacks.

Fanling and Tai Po are connected by the Fanling Highway, a section of Route 9 which is basically an expressway which was completed in the 1980s and link Castle Peak Road to the eastern side of the SAR, effectively forming a ring road around the New Territories. We don’t take the expressway, but we do follow the adjacent Pak Wo Road, the old road which runs parallel to the new road between Tai To Yan Shan and Cloudy Hill. We actually took this stretch, between Fanling and Lam Tsuen, in the opposite direction in stage 3, as part of the loop between the first couple of climbs and the final ascent, but at Lam Tsuen we break left for the Tai Po road. This means a 90º left followed shortly by a 90º right at 3,2km from the line, then a slightly left curving road which is otherwise very straight and safe until a couple of kinks at 1700m from home. At 1500m from the line there is a 90º left onto the Tai Po-Tai Wo Road, a large and broad boulevard which will be pretty safe and then curves 90º right for around 200m. After Tai Po Old Market Playground Park, we take our penultimate corner at 500m from home and then a final left at 300m from home on to Kwong Fuk Road. All of these roads are four-lane routes so these corners are wide and should be able to be handled very safely especially considering:
the péloton will likely be relatively small - around 120 riders I would suspect give or take a few DNFs;
the péloton will have already seen the finish three times on previous laps.

This one should be a sprint, there are possibilities for other outcomes but the sprint is of course the expected outcome, giving a bit of respite to the riders between the MTF on stage 3 and the closing weekend of the race.
Stage 5: Chinese University of Hong Kong - Tseung Kwan O-Hong Kong Velodrome, 147km



Lam Tsuen Au (cat.3) 1,2km @ 8,9%
Chuk Kok Shan (cat.3) 1,6km @ 7,8%
Ma Yau Tong (cat.3) 2,3km @ 7,0%
Tate’s Cairn (Sha Tin Pass)(cat.1) 4,4km @ 10,2%
Tate’s Cairn (Jat’s Incline)(cat.1) 4,1km @ 9,8%

The penultimate stage of the race is a tough intermediate stage with five categorised climbs, as many as any stage of the race, and including two cat.1 ascents towards the end. It’s a medium mountain stage realistically but could well have significant impact on the GC due to the balance of the race and the steepness of the late ascents.

The stage starts at the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, founded in 1963 by the merger of Chung Chi College, United College and New Asia College, three of the most prestigious academic institutes of Hong Kong under British control; it is the most historic and prestigious such institution in the SAR, and remains its only collegiate university, teaching primarily with English as the language of instruction but also using Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese). New Asia College is the eldest of its three constituent parts, having been established in 1949 to focus on teaching Chinese history that was being marginalised by the battle of nationalism and communism going on on the mainland, while Chung Chi College followed two years later to provide education for Christians, with the revolution having resulted in the closure and banning of Christian educational institutions in the People’s Republic; United College was then founded by merging five Guangdong-based institutions that had been forced to relocate to Hong Kong in the aftermath of the revolution, with the formal founding being in 1956 as the vastly reduced student intake made running as separate institutions no longer financially viable, especially given the increased cost of property in the rapidly expanding Hong Kong economy of the time. The plans to create a Chinese-language institution in Hong Kong had been underway since 1960 and eventually resulted in the merger and a bilingual institution three years later, and a new campus was authorised and construction began at Ma Liu Shui, part of Sha Tin, where Chung Chi College was already located, due to its far more suitable location for a full campus than having to arrange isolated locations dotted around the increasingly crowded centre of Kowloon and Central. New Asia and United College facilities were moved into the campus in 1970, and additional faculties were added through the mid-70s too, and then in 1976 the federal nature of the university was centralised. In recent years, however, the University has found itself embroiled in controversies, perhaps unsurprisingly - much as the universities were the centre of the 1968 uprisings in Europe, and of opposition in the Eastern Bloc, 2010 saw the student union attempt to raise a statue in praise of democracy (a controversial move in an SAR of a Communist state if ever there was one), and many of the 2019 protests centred around the university as well, with riot police being forced to storm the campus in November 2019 in response to student and protester blockades following the death of student Chow Tsz-Lok, which was attributed by protesters to police brutality (although the coroner’s findings were inconclusive and remain so to this day and it appeared that police had not entered the building from which Chow fell until after the time the student fell to his death). More recently, additional faculties and colleges have been added to CUHK including an off-site campus in Shenzhen, tying the institution more to the mainland, perhaps in order to quell some of the separatist sympathies and resistance to closer union with the rest of China.


CUHK campus - Tai Po in the background

The first part of the stage sees us head across the low pass between Kam Shan (Golden Hill) and Beacon Hill that includes Kowloon Reservoir. This is 2km at less than 5% so in view of what is to come I haven’t categorised it, but it is nevertheless a bit of a stinger for the start of the stage. However, it is then followed by a pretty lengthy flat period, most of which should be familiar to the riders by now. Descending from Kowloon Reservoir back toward the west coast takes us into Lai Chi Kok Park, where we then turn off the road as it becomes an expressway, and climb up the gradual drag up to Kwai Chung Au, which we descended in stage 1. We then descend its northern side into Kwai Chung and Tsuen Wan, whereupon we then follow the coastal path along Castle Peak Road from Tsuen Wan to Tuen Mun, exactly as we did in stage 3. Rather than loop back on ourselves, however, we continue on to Yuen Long, a town of 170.000 in the New Territories which used to be on a different site, but the market was moved to fit with the proposed route of Castle Peak Road following the British purchase of the New Territories and, with the town’s economic centre moving, the other amenities swiftly followed suit. It is also, along with Sheung Shui, another hub of parallel trading which made recent headlines for an incident in 2019 where a mob of locals stormed the MTR station and injured 45, in what was perceived as a move to separate the town from repercussions from the ongoing protests against the Extradition Bill at the time and generated a large amount of controversy at the time. Here, we have our first intermediate sprint.

We then pass over Lam Tsuen Au, the short but steep cat.3 climb that also featured as an intermediate climb in stage 3, before descending into Tai Po, before continuing around the coastal road back to Sha Tin, where the university campus is, crossing the Shing Mun river and circumnavigating the Sha Tin Hoi estuary. This leads us into the second half of the stage, a much more complex and tricky stretch which offers beaucoup opportunities to create some separation on the road between groups, and for riders to generate some action. Sha Tin used to be known before British possession as Lek Yuen and is the site of one of Hong Kong’s oldest walled villages, Tai Wai. South of the river we have Ma On Shan, a coastal settlement named for the mountain overlooking it, which is popular for outdoor barbecues and as an escape for city-dwellers in the crowded environs of Kowloon. Following this road around takes us over an uncategorised gradual ramp before descending down to Sai Kung, a moorage inlet that served as a market town during medieval times for the coastal settlements and became a common place for ships to port and resupply while not being subject to Royal Navy inspections that would be necessary to moor in Victoria Harbour. This role as a slightly-ought-of-the-way site that allowed moorage but was away from the colonial authorities’ eyes meant it developed an important role in the 1950s and 1960s as smugglers would try to circumvent embargoes against the People’s Republic using the town. This was reduced following the new town developments in the 1970s, and now the old junks are hired out for touristic purposes, enabling tourists to explore the east coast of the SAR; more recently it was where much of the airline staff, employees and wares were housed during the relocation of airport operations from Kai Tak to Chek Lap Kok.


Here, the business end of the stage begins, as we start by climbing up towards Pik Uk, but only as far as Chuk Kok, for a short but sharp 1,6km climb at just under 8%. With 50km still to go it is highly unlikely that any significant moves will be made here, but it’s a nice little leg-warmer for what’s to come. After a short plateau we descend down into Tseung Kwan O (將軍澳), one of the later developments during British colonial times, having previously been an inlet called “Junk’s Bay” until the 1980s, with small fishing villages and a refugee establishment for Kuomintang loyalists the main features. The central fishing village was named Tseung Kwan O, and it was from this that the development took its name, although Hang Hau is the name of the main district that the development was aimed at expanding. Across three phases, the population of the area was increased to 325.000, and the MTR extended to include an eastern line which terminates along two separate branches in outlying parts of Tseung Kwan O. At the southernmost tip of the town, the new LOHAS Park residential project scheduled for completion in 2025 will become the single largest residential enclave in Hong Kong.

However, the main reason for highlighting Tseung Kwan O is its sports facilities, constructed when Hong Kong hosted the 2009 East Asian Games, a regional competition seeing the two SARs of China compete with the mainland, Taiwan (competing as Chinese Taipei, as is required in IOC-sanctioned competition), Japan, North and South Korea, Mongolia and Guam. For this, a number of facilities were constructed, but of most interest is the Hong Kong Velodrome, which actually came a few years later; it was only approved in 2006 after Wong Kam-Po’s Asian Games gold medal, which caused a bit of embarrassment for the SAR when it was revealed that Hong Kong athletes had to relocate to mainland China to train due to lacking facilities at home. Constructed adjacent to the athletics stadium built for the 2009 Games and inaugurated in 2013, the velodrome can hold 3.000 people and has a rooftop design influenced by cycling helmet styles. It was added to the Track World Cup in 2015-16 and hosted the 2017 World Championships, with the locals able to cheer patriotic favourite Lee Wai-Sze home for her bronze medal in the match sprint. Other medalists of interest to road-following readers would include Chloe Dygert, Filippo Ganna, Lotte Kopecky, Jolien d’Hoore, Kirsten Wild, Aaron Gate, Kenny de Ketele, Cameron Meyer, Benjamin Thomas, Simone Consonni and Sam Welsford. While we will later finish at the velodrome, the first time we pass outside it, for now we simply have an intermediate sprint with 45km still to go.


We’re now headed back into the densely populated parts of Kowloon, via another third category climb, the Ma Yau Tong pass. There’s actually two roads to reach this summit and naturally I’ve gone for the steeper of the two, although neither could really be called especially challenging, so this is another cat.3 ascent, though the last one of the day, as both climbs left on the menu afterwards are considerably more challenging propositions. With 2,3km from Po Tsui Park, we climb up to a pass which averages 7%, and then descend on a wide, fast road down in to Kwun Tong (观塘, or 觀塘 in traditional characters). Originally the name was Koon Tong, which meant “Mandarin Pond”, but a different character has been used since, as when the area was being developed, the idea of naming an area after government officials was unpopular and it was renamed Kwun Tong, meaning “Pond View”.

We then head north through Kowloon Bay settlements, side-stepping the former airport developments we saw during stage 2. We then head west on Prince Edward Road, and turn north at Kowloon Walled City, the former site of one of the SAR’s icons, now an urban park. Once the most population-dense square kilometre on earth, this was an exclave of China within Hong Kong and became one of the most notorious places on earth for many years.


Originally a walled fort on the boundary when Kowloon was the extent of British Hong Kong, it became an enclave when the New Territories were transferred in 1898, and became largely filled with refugees after the end of the Chinese Civil War. This became something of a problem rapidly; at the time of the transfer of the New Territories, the population of this enclave was around 700 largely military personnel; the Qing Dynasty had effectively left the city to the British in 1912, but while they claimed it, little was done with the compound until an attempt was made in the 1930s to demolish it and replace it with superior housing, compensating the squatters who numbers around 400. However, the Nationalist Chinese government counter-claimed the territory and wrangling on the subject was still ongoing when WWII made the debate rather a moot point. China then reclaimed the city after Japanese surrender, and after Britain’s attempts to stem the tide of refugees from the Chinese Civil War failed, in 1948 they essentially adopted a hands-off approach, accepting China’s in-principle responsibility for the city but objecting to any use of British territory to enforce sovereignty over the walled city - leaving it an almost entirely ungovernable mess. With no building regulations and a rapidly expanding population, slum housing proliferated, and being dependent on self-policing, it became a haven of crime and corruption, with Triad groups controlling opium dens, brothels, gambling houses and security throughout. The lawlessness was such that it was only in 1959 that a ruling allowed the Hong Kong government to take any responsibility for peacekeeping in the Walled City, and even then, until a series of coordinated raids in 1973 and 1974, they largely steered clear except for pre-organised entry with large police numbers, mapping out the maze of the Walled City like a military operation. Being unable to build upwards because of restrictions and directly under the flight path of Kai Tak Airport, it was noisy, cramped, often unsanitary, and incredibly violent, although churches, schools, charities and small businesses also thrived - often in absolute darkness owing to the shadows produced by the buildings within the tiny compound.

Because the conditions which allowed its development would be made thereby no longer relevant, the 1984 Joint Declaration that set terms for the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China included provisions for the demolition of the Walled City; mutual agreement on the subject was announced in 1987. US$350m was doled out in compensation to the 33.000 inhabitants for their eviction, thought some stuck it out until the bitter end, until the bulldozers moved in in 1993. Its legacy is strong; like many such environs it is viewed with rose-tinted spectacles in hindsight, and romanticised greatly from the reality of life in this cramped compound; it appeared multiple times across fiction works, such as the Bourne Supremacy and also marking the first of a number of visits to Hong Kong for cinematic work for the finest actor of his, or indeed any, generation, Jean-Claude van Damme, where the walled city served as the backdrop for the martial arts tournament in Bloodsport. It has also been brought to a new generation by immortalisation as a setting in games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops and Shenmue. Today, the land is a park, although the yamen, formerly the Mandarin’s residence but later the beating social heart of the city, has remained standing. In honour of the historic significance of the site, I thought this would be a good spot for our final intermediate sprint, coming at 30km from the line.


Kowloon Walled City Park, now completely unrecognisable from its former state

We also pass another icon of Hong Kong at this point, which is the small protrusion of a hill which would be microscopic by cycling terms in terms of its challenge, and is completely dwarfed by the other hills in the area, but is perhaps the most important in the urban area before we get to the Kowloon Ridge - that’s because this is the iconic Checkerboard Hill, with its painted walls to guide pilots on the correct path toward the infamous Kai Tak Heart Attack turn. After the decommission of the airport the checkerboard became faded and decayed, but authorities took the opportunity during the Covid-19 pandemic to restore this as there had been a number of campaigns by locals and aviation enthusiasts to preserve this iconic piece of Hong Kong’s history.


At this point, though… things get really hard. The roads are about to turn uphill and the suffering will commence. Neither of the back-to-back ascents of Tate’s Cairn, one of the tallest summits on Kowloon Ridge, are particularly long, but they are definitely steep. In times gone by, the boundary between Kowloon and the Shing Mun river was crossed by a couple of mountain passes, Sha Tin Pass (so called because it was the route to Sha Tin) between Lion Rock Country Park and the Kowloon Ridge, and a higher pass, Tate’s Pass, or Tai Lo Au, on Kowloon Ridge itself, with two routes down either side of Tate’s Cairn, the northernmost of the chain of summits culminating in Kowloon Peak at the south. Both passes are now open to hikers and hobby cyclists only, no longer wide enough or well-maintained enough for motor vehicles; they have both been supplanted by tunnels for ease of transportation. However, because of the interest in accessing Kowloon Ridge for its spectacular views, fresh air and recreation facilities, the southern sides of these routes, from the main urban sprawl of Kowloon, remain fully paved, drivable and accessible, and so we are going to be climbing a couple of these.

The first side we climb is the one from Tsz Wan Shan (慈雲山, formerly known as “Temple Hill”) via Sha Tin Pass (沙田坳, Sha Tin Au), which was constructed by the British military in the early 20th Century after the purchase of the New Territories in order to access them more readily. It’s an extremely steep road - Climbbybike has a profile showing 4,5km @ 10,3% although we have a slightly different start to the climb owing to not heading to the westernmost point of Tsz Wan Shan first, making our profile slightly different (also Climbbybike names the whole climb Sha Tin Pass, when Sha Tin Pass is only the name of the first pass summit marked at point 2 on that profile. The road beyond that is still called Sha Tin Pass Road, or Wilson Trail, but this is above the actual pass). Plus also because of the way that profile goes on kilometres only it’s a bit less detailed than the Cronoescalada autogenerated profile, so you can see that here:


As you can see, it’s a multi-stepped incline. The first part up to Sha Tin Pass itself, site of the Lion Pavilion, is 1,6km at 13,7% with two ramps of 20%+, then a short flattening out at the Temple Hill complex by said pavilion. There’s then a ramping up of 900m at 12%, starting with 400m up at 16%, before the junction with Kwun Ping Road, where the road up to the radio transmitter at the Temple Hill summit branches off, sees another flattening out. Finally, things ramp up for a final 1200m at 10,7%, maxing out at 18% and with 500m at 16% in the middle. Brutal stuff. Here’s a brand new (April 2024) video showing the ascent, reaching Sha Tin Pass at 4:10 or so, view down into the city at 4:50, the Kwun Ping Road junction at 7:10, and finishing at the Jat’s Incline viewpoint just short of the summit at 8:15.


Last part of the ascent

In regular traffic, however, you can’t do the whole thing; at a historical viewing platform 500m below the summit, there is a fork in the road at a small parking area and viewpoint; the riders will bear left to complete the climb, but regular traffic in normal operating conditions is forced to take the right hand fork. This is as the two other roads to Tate’s Cairn, Fei Ngo Shan Road and Jat’s Incline, are both wide enough to accommodate vehicular traffic, but not wide enough to accommodate passing at enough places for this to be done safely on the steep gradients. As both roads terminate at their southern/lower ends at different parts of the same road (Clear Water Bay Road), therefore, regular traffic is only allowed to go uphill on Fei Ngo Shan Road, and downhill on Jat’s Incline.


Fei Ngo Shan Road to the left, Jat’s Incline straight ahead. Regular traffic must descend Jat’s Incline and climb Fei Ngo Shan Road. We continue climbing as with roads closed, we can use the one-way street in the opposite direction for racing purposes

However, there’s a slight difference between the two roads, and that’s that the small downhill false flat bit on Clear Water Bay Road between the bottoms of the two roads makes a considerable difference to the cycling nature of them. Fei Ngo Shan Road is 4,2km @ 9,2% according to Climbbybike, while Jat’s Incline starts a bit further down and is 4,1km @ 9,8%.


The main meat and drink of this climb is the 3,3km at 11,5% in the middle; the beginning and end just serve to round it off somewhat, so this is very much in the same kind of ballpark as climbs like, say, Puïg Llorença from the Vuelta; slightly easier than Alto de Les Praeres, but slightly harder than Montée Laurent Jalabert in the Tour. It’s not super inconsistent, but it’s at a steep enough gradient to really bring a challenge, maxing out at 19% and since it comes directly off the back of another similar style (but less inconsistent) climb, this should really bring quite a lot of pain to the table. Our first time to Tate’s Cairn, via Sha Tin Pass Road, crests at 23,2km from the line, and the second, this one via Jat’s Incline, crests at just 14km from home. Pretty nasty stuff, all told, especially if we are looking at a lower level péloton contesting this. At least the climbs are close enough to the line, and the far easier stage 4 allowing a bit of recuperation from the MTF on stage 3, to mean that time cuts shouldn’t be an issue. Annoyingly this whole section had to be mapped by hand owing to going against the grain of what traffic is allowed to do, but it is the better way round to do the ascent/descent in my opinion. As a result, I can’t show you anybody climbing the Jat’s Incline road, because you’re not allowed to, but I can show you somebody descending it, departing the same parking area that you saw at the end of the previous video.

And, to complete the set, here is a video climbing the Fei Ngo Shan Road, which we will descend (the road starts at 1:40, we will emerge from the descent here and take the road you can see in front of the car there until the base of Jat’s Incline a kilometre or so down the road. The one-way section starts at 2:50, and at 8:30 you see the dome of Tate’s Cairn. While the videos of both Jat’s Incline and Fei Ngo Shan Road are older than the one of Sha Tin Pass Road, you can see the superior road quality on Fei Ngo Shan Road to Jat’s Incline, which was another reason it was preferable to do the climb/descent this way round):

While this is the end of the categorised climbing, the riders aren’t out of the woods yet. Of course, they must descend Fei Ngo Shan Road again, but hopefully they’re alone or in small groups by now. After the base of the descent there are a couple of little repechos in Pik Uk that might aid further moves - a 500m at 7% dig at 8,3km from the line, and then 700m at 4,5% to Pik Uk Prison cresting 6,7km from the line. Neither are particularly challenging but seeing as my hope is to see small groups on the road by this point, that they can give platforms to make tactical moves that can help dispute the stage or the GC mix. A couple of kilometres’ descent from here takes us to the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, which sits just south of Chuk Kok Shan, and we rejoin our route from earlier, descending into Tseung Kwan O for the finish. The descent from Sheung Au Shan into Tseung Kwan O is 1900m at 6,3% and ends at 1500m from the line, at a roundabout in Boon Kin village. From there it’s dead straight to the large, smooth-curved roundabout (so large riders will barely need to slow down in fact) at the junction of the Wan Po Road expressway, then bearing left until a roundabout at 500m from home that we take the outside line of - this enables us to turn it into a broad curve of 135º rather than a sharp corner, before accelerating to the finish at the velodrome. I wouldn’t be so sure about that final roundabout if this was going to be a bunch sprint with full leadouts, but with two 10% climbs of 4km or more in the last 25km I see this being a small group at the most and the roads are plenty wide enough to cope with any late darts or plans that a small group may have at this stage.

This should also leave us with a GC mix that is nicely poised before our final stage.
Stage 6: Hong Kong Harbourfront - Hong Kong Harbourfront, 140km



Tai Tam Gap (cat.3) 2,2km @ 7,0%
Tai Tam Gap (cat.3) 2,2km @ 7,0%
Tai Tam Gap (cat.3) 2,2km @ 7,0%
Magazine Gap via Tregunter Path (cat.2) 3,3km @ 6,1%
Mount Butler Lodge (cat.3) 1,8km @ 7,6%

Our final stage of the Tour of Hong Kong is the first, and only, which takes place entirely on Hong Kong Island, the original colony when the Britons first acquired it. Taken from the name 香港, meaning “fragrant harbour”, the characters for the SAR’s traditional name, taken from that of the island, would be Xiānggǎng in Hanyu pinyin, and Hēunggóng in Cantonese Yale (a transcription based on applying pinyin orthography, normally intended for Mandarin, to Cantonese spellings and pronunciations). Nowadays 香港島, adding the suffix -dou, is usually used to identify Hong Kong Island, as opposed to the overall territory of the SAR - nowadays, with the New Territories, Hong Kong is not even the largest island in Hong Kong, as Lantau Island, on the shores of which the new airport was constructed on reclaimed land, is larger than it.

The island known now as Hong Kong was incorporated within the Chinese Empire for the first time in around 214 BCE, during the Qin Dynasty, before which it is believed that the settlers in the area were likely to have been Austronesians. It was largely an outpost, save for a brief period where it was located close to the temporary capital of the Southern Song following the Mongol invasions in the 13th Century, and was first visited by Europeans when the Portuguese arrived in the 16th Century on one of Jorge Álvares’ explorations, setting up the Tamão trading post for a few years on an island in the area (location not certain, but the name is cognate with Tuen Mun, leading many to speculate that the two are connected), but this became less relevant to them after they secured the lease on Macau in 1557. After the Manchu conquest in the 17th Century, however, a series of policies known as “haijin” (海禁) banned sea trade to improve Chinese self-sufficiency led to the gradual dilapidation of the villages and towns in what is now Hong Kong. This was overturned by the Kangxi Emperor by the end of the century, but only Russian ships were allowed to trade anywhere except Canton until 1757, leading the city to become the main hub for European trade.

The British originally occupied the island as part of the First Opium War and it was ceded “in perpetuity” in the Treaty of Nanking in 1842. At the time the island was home to around 3.000 people, but the attractive port potential of what is now Victoria Harbour came to British attention, and they established the town of Queenstown, renamed Victoria soon after in honour of the then-queen. The population of the island today, however, is around 1,3 million, reflecting just how dramatically the population has increased over the last 180 years. It was initially harsh, but the Taiping Rebellion led many Chinese traders, officials and merchants to flee and settle in the colony.


Looking back across Victoria Harbour from Hong Kong Island

The island was the last bastion of British control in the area after the Japanese invasion, with them stepping on to the island on 18th December 1941, ten days after taking Kowloon. Formal surrender came on Christmas Day. The Japanese undertook a forced repatriation program which reduced the population of Hong Kong from 1,6 million to just under half that figure, but it has enjoyed steady growth since then, until reaching its present size. It is lower than average population density for Hong Kong, but the statistics only cover the island as a whole, whereas the majority of the population of Hong Kong island is concentrated on the northern shores. This also includes most of the most affluent suburbs of the SAR.

Not least among these is the harbour-front Central district, where we hold the start/finish of this final stage, and which has been radically changed in recent years with developments to show off the economic strength of the area, with a lot of those architectural glamour projects popular in large parts of the world. Our final run-in will include a number of these, as we are going to hold the start/finish in the Harbourfront complex, just after the Culture Plaza and opposite the Central Harbourfront Event Space, on the same site that hosted the Formula E races from 2015 to 2019 in the SAR, using the straight which you see at 0:15 of this video leaving us with a nice wide and scenic setting and a safe finish on Lung Wo Road just before Hong Kong station, which is actually the name of an MTR station in Hong Kong believe it or not! Not that this is that likely to be a sprint, but it’s possible. This is a tricky little final stage, you see.


2019 Hong Kong ePrix, showing the finish area for my stage on the right hand side, with the Event Space and the Hong Kong Observation Wheel prominent, and the Exhibition Centre in the background

Like most of the stages of this race, we are starting and finishing in the same place; only stages 3 and 5 have deviated from that template, and much like stage 4, we have multiple loops of a relatively long circuit here. However, we only have three, and then lap four is a much shorter and more challenging route allowing for time gaps to be opened up with some difficult terrain.

The ‘long lap’ here is a bumpy circuit of a little under 40km in length, tougher than the stage 1 or stage 4 circuits, but still not super challenging, what with the bumpy terrain around the coast road thanks to the hilly nature of the island. Since we’re starting in the district of Central, the former beating heart of Victoria City, this part of the circuit is very urban, although we stick to the main roads around the coast until we get to the westernmost part of the district, Kennedy Town. Central is known as Chung Wan (中环, originally 中環) in Cantonese (Cantonese has more use of traditional characters than Mandarin, as the People’s Republic introduced the simplified characters as part of a drive to increase literacy), which has the same meaning, ever since the implementation of the Island Line of the MTR. This is the oldest part of what used to be Victoria City (the name is seldom used now) and crystallised around Canton Bazaar (later rebuilt as Central Market, a large Bauhaus-style wet market). Moving out of the immediately urbanised area takes us through Kennedy Town, which includes the very first public housing estate projects of Hong Kong, the 1967 skyscrapers, underneath the watchful eye of Victoria Peak, the highest on the island (and one which was tempting to include but in order to preserve balance I chose to omit).


Central District, Hong Kong

The southern side of the island is much more sparsely populated and includes some scenic green spaces and mountainside as well as vistas out across the South China Sea and onto the outlying, less urbanised (and even in some cases unsettled) islands of the SAR, with the most notable views being from Mount Kellett and Mount Cameron, between which lies a deep valley with two reservoirs in it, called Aberdeen Country Park, after the town at the shoreline to its south - itself, of course, named after the Scottish city of the same nomenclature. It is known as 香港仔 to locals (meaning Little Hong Kong, literally Hong Kong Tsai) and is in fact where the name Hong Kong is derived; this was an old fishing port which was arrived at by Europeans not yet aware of the anchorage potential on the other side of the island; misinterpreting the name of the town as the name of the island, by the time this error had been discovered, the erroneous name had come into common practice (a similar issue explains the name of Macau, which came from Portuguese arriving in the Haojing’ao (濠鏡澳) peninsula and when they asked locals about the name of the area, as they had come from overseas, locals directed them to a temple to the sea goddess Matsu, named A Ma Kok (媽閣), from which the Portuguese name “Amacquão” was taken, which over time simplified to Macau).

Aberdeen is also well known for its floating village, with some 6.000 mostly Tanka-ethnicity people living and working full-time on their boats, with a number of floating restaurants as well as fishing livelihoods; the harbour has also appeared numerous times in film, with other parts of the sailing scenes from Enter the Dragon appearing here (mostly once the competitors are all assembled on Han’s vessel), as well as a chase sequence in the timeless classic Double Impact, which stars the unbeatable pairing of Jean-Claude van Damme and Jean-Claude van Damme as identical twins separated at birth who get into various scrapes in Hong Kong, one a worldly-wise smuggler and the other a fish-out-of-water martial arts instructor from Los Angeles. Actual taglines include “one packs a punch, the other packs a piece” and “double the Van Damage” - so you know we’re talking a Citizen Kane beater here.


Aberdeen Country Park and the harbour in the background

There are a couple of uncategorised bumps on this loop, one from Waterfall Bay to Pok Fu Lam Fire Station where we rejoin the ring road (1,4km at 4,2%, but the first 700m are at 6,7%), and the other one being Stanley Gap which could arguably have been a cat.3 if it was a stage 1 or stage 4 type design on one of the laps, 1,4km at 5,5%. The eastern half of the island is also less densely populated with much more green land; we will head through the only categorised climb on this main circuit through some of this, up to Tai Tam Gap (大潭峡), a mountain pass that serves as the main connection between the north and south coasts of the island on the eastern side, and has a correctional institute, serving as the first “smart prison”, near its summit. The scenery around here is spectacular with various water features and landscape that is far less spoiled by man than the rest of the densely-populated SAR.


Tai Tam Reservoirs

The summit of these climbs falls 11,4km from the end of the circuit and we see this ascent three times. The final circuit is shorter - just 23,7km - so the final time we crest the Tai Tam Gap summit is at around 35km from the finish. The circuit becomes more urban once we descend into Shau Kei Wan and Quarry, so the last part of it is taking in some major urban roads and taking the race to the people rather than having them go to the race. Fighting our way through Quarry and into North Point sees us heading along some very well-known and historic thoroughfares of Hong Kong Island, but this run-in is mostly pretty flat which will comes as some respite for the riders especially if they are local enough to know what’s to come.

North Point is known for its population of Shanghainese Chinese, who form a significant community here especially after fleeing the Civil War (the district was known as “Little Shanghai” during British ownership post-war due to this), as well as its beaches which used to host swimming galas. It was during this period the most densely populated area on earth, though obviously it lost that crown to neighbouring parts of the colony in the 1960s. There was also a second wave of immigration from Fujian, and although most of these moved on to form large parts of the Chinese expatriate communities in Southeast Asia, elements of their legacy remain; although the Shanghainese introduced the first Mandarin-language educational institutions in Hong Kong, they largely deferred to Cantonese within a couple of generations, whereas the Hokkien community in North Point retain their mother tongue to this day. In North Point we also join King’s Road, a major East-west thoroughfare in northern Hong Kong Island which is dual-carriageway with the Hong Kong Tram System running down the central reservation.

Watch this one on mute - the sped up voices can get pretty annoying to deal with. We take the road through the whole video until 5:50 where we take the flyover across to the harbour front on laps 1-3, on the final, shorter circuit we will join this video from the junction on the left at 2:49

As mentioned, we take the flyover at Tin Hau in order to head to the coastline, and then have a left and a right to get around Wan Chai Sports Ground and onto Lung Wo Road, which takes us down a final straight which is 1500m in length - and includes two rather nice tunnel spots, including one underneath Hong Kong Exhibition Centre, giving the finish a bit of the Monaco Grand Prix vibes. It also takes us past Central Plaza, a skyscraper that, for a time, was the tallest reinforced concrete structure in the world at 374m, though that only makes it the third highest building on Hong Kong Island.


Hong Kong Exhibition Centre, on reclaimed land, and the skyscraper to its left. Stage finish by the open space to the rear

This is fine the first three times, of course, but the final lap means that we don’t really expect a sizeable péloton battling it out over that long final straight, and it’s going to be more about trying to keep chasers at bay with them able to see their prey. At least, that’s what I hope for. We almost immediately diverge from the main circuit by taking a 90º left at Hong Kong Station, and heading back on ourselves to the Bank of China Tower, an iconic skyscraper designed by IM Pei (貝聿銘), which has been one of the most recognisable features on the Hong Kong skyline since its opening in 1990 - and was controversial as the only such building not to have seen consultation on feng shui as was the convention at the time. And then things get pretty serious, pretty quickly. It’s been slightly uphill already to get to the tower, but after this? Well, we hang a right and then shortly afterwards a 90º left to start climbing the extremely steep rise up to the Mid-Levels. You’ll probably be aware of how steep this is - the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator system is the largest covered escalator system in the world, and were immortalised in Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express, a subtle two-story drama which is arguably the finest piece of Hong Kong cinema outside of its martial arts or action genre pieces, and which utilised the then-newly-opened system as a repeated leitmotif as Faye Wong’s quietly lovestruck waitress runs errands and silently rebuilds the life of lonely, but oblivious, police officer Tony Leung.


Faye Wong takes a break from introducing Cantonese audiences to the might of the Cocteau Twins


The escalator system today

This area is, at night, the lively Lan Kwai Fong area, which features the bars and food stalls also shown in the film; an area of which has been dubbed “Soho” after the London district known for similar reasons, but we’re avoiding the wildest parts of town in favour of climbing a very steep ascent up Wyndham Street (one of the oldest colonial streets in Central, in fact, formerly known as Pedder Hill and once famous for its flower market, before this moved to the adjacent D’Aguilar Street in the 1920s),and then onward to Albany Road (here is a video of somebody walking down the hill, we come out of the super-steep underpass you see at 5:30 on our way up) past Government House, the official residence of the Governor and house of the Legislative Council from 1855 to 1931, and then we climb onward to Tregunter Path, a super-steep route which takes us into the Mid-Levels, not quite all the way up to Victoria Peak, but if we went up there we wouldn’t be able to descend back down as there’s only the one road to it and then a one-way loop around it, preventing us from accessing it.


Tregunter Path

Nevertheless, this climb - which crests at 20,3km from the line - is absolutely brutal. It’s only short, but this is a Basque type climb; the first part on Wyndham Street is fairly typical fare, but as we cross onto Albany Road and go through the underpass the gradient leaps up to 23%, and stays at 20% or more for the next 300m. It flattens out a little to a couple of hundred metres at “just” 10% or so around where the video I linked earlier starts, then onto Tregunter Path it’s 400m at 13,5% before the gradients start to ease off at the summit. Overall it’s 1,45km at 13,4%, which puts it in the same kind of ballpark as climbs like the Alto de Aia or the Muro di Montelupone, two beloved muritos in world cycling.

And you know what’s best? It isn’t even categorised.

That’s right, not one single, solitary mountain point to be given here. That’s because we’re going for a double summit approach, so the points are given out at the second summit, which is slightly higher. We therefore descend around 900m at 8,3% past the Peak Tram May Road station, and onto the road up to Magazine Gap. (馬己仙峽道), a mountain pass leading to the affluent Peak area from the Mid-Levels. Had we not turned right at the Bank of China Tower, this is the street we would have been on, and it also merges with the road that we passed under at the start of the most brutal ramps of Albany Road too. There’s a slight downhill after joining the road to the housing establishment Magazine Heights, but then there is a very steep, short, final ramp up to the pass itself which is 700m at 13,7% - very steep and potentially selective in its own right, another Tirreno-Adriatico murito classic that crests at 18,3km from the line. This gives us a nasty-looking double climb, but where the gradients are not such that one part is significantly steeper than the other, so it’s not like the Alto de Aia double-climb; I thought about comparing it to that time the Itzulia categorised Ixua despite it being a lower summit after ascending Usartza via the hormigón side from Matxaria (this one), but the final ramp was too short there. Eventually probably the best comparison point would be - for traceurs at least - a sort of miniature version of the Fumanyà-Pradell doublette. And with under 20km left and GC on the line, surely we can see some action. Especially considering at this kind of gradient, drafting and pacing becomes an absolute irrelevance a lot of the time for the péloton’s elites, let alone the lower ranked riders and teams. As a result I have given this a cat.2 status despite there being barely 2km of climbing, and the overall stats of 3,3km @ 6,1% really don’t even come close to telling the whole story.


Profile of the double climb

From here, the descent back into town is pretty relaxed by comparison; it’s 4,9km at 5,1%, passing through Wan Chai Gap, around the northern face of Mount Cameron, and to the lower pass of Wong Nai Chung Gap, at which a couple of relics of the colonial era lie - in typical British fashion, the most affluent parts of society are settled at the top of hills, as was often the case with European colonists setting up hill stations in warmer climes, and with this being an area often settled by the colonial elites, the sports of the colonial elites were set up here, with the Hong Kong Tennis Association and the Hong Kong Cricket Association both being based here. The latter actually had some level of prominence for some time after the handover, as Hong Kong hosted and arranged a unique tournament of six-a-side cricket at the Kowloon Cricket Club which lasted all the way until 2017 - following another tradition of reduced side British sport; the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens were until very recently the most prestigious seven-a-side tournament in fact (it is, like six-a-side cricket, played on a full-size pitch but with reduced numbers, so is more like the three-a-side basketball or regular season overtime hockey, rather than futsal or arena football which it is often compared to), but have now been usurped by the Olympic Games.

From here we could have descended direct to the Exhibition Centre and the finish but I wanted to get a bit more action once gaps have been forced by the double-climb to Magazine Gap. As a result, therefore, we head down into the Happy Valley area, around the Queen Elizabeth Stadium which hosted the 1983 Asian Basketball Championships and hosted many indoor events such as badminton and squash at the 2009 East Asian Games, and to the Happy Valley Racecourse, one of just two in Hong Kong (and the primary one), with a capacity of 55.000 and home to the Hong Kong Racing Museum. It is one of the earliest sporting venues in the SAR, having been constructed by the Britons in 1845 due to its suitability, being the only flat land large enough to house a racecourse at the time. It is also a fully open racecourse with members of the public able to access the frequent Wednesday night meets. The inside of the racecourse has been developed several times and now houses a number of facilities for other sports, as well as the Hong Kong FC Stadium, a 2750-capacity stadium which is the home to the historic sports club which is Hong Kong’s oldest soccer AND rugby team. They were originally based on Sports Road, but the stadium’s importance largely lived and died with the tournament; after the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament grew too large for the stadium in 1982 and was moved to the Hong Kong Stadium nearby, the local club games were not large enough for the regular stadium and so they moved into a smaller facility on the racecourse infield.


Happy Valley Racecourse

Looping around the racecourse, however, we then turn back uphill again for our final climb of the stage, a more conventional ascent toward Mount Butler. The main body of this climb is Broadwood Road, a kilometre at 8,6% with a maximum of 16% which actually runs specifically between the racecourse and the Hong Kong Stadium, which with its 40.000 capacity is the largest in the SAR (at least until the completion of the Sports Park at Kai Tak) and is home to the national soccer and rugby union teams, as well as where the Hong Kong International Rugby Sevens are held every year, as well as, on two occasions, once in British Hong Kong and once in the Chinese SAR of Hong Kong, the Rugby Sevens World Cup. It has also served as a guest host for internationals between other teams, most notably two games between Australia and New Zealand as a neutral venue in 2008 and 2010. It is expected to be partially dismantled in order to reduce capacity once the Kai Tak stadium is completed, but plans for that are on hold at the moment while completion is awaited.


Broadwood Road

The top of Broadwood Road sees a brief flat stretch on Tai Hang Road before a final 400m at 11% to the Mount Butler Lookout, however we have to turn left back toward town before the peak because this road becomes a dead end. This climb overall is 1,8km @ 7,6% and crests at 10,4km from the line, which again could be less had I wanted it to be, but instead of descending directly into Causeway Bay I chose to go for a less steep descent and keep moving eastward along the elevated mid-levels road and pass the traditional Tin Hau Temple of Causeway Bay (銅鑼灣天后廟) to give a bit of a counterpoint to all of the urban sprawl that has characterised the latter part of the stage, now that we’re not enjoying the hinterlands of the south of the island on this fourth lap. This entails an extension to the circuit of around 4km, but apart from a downhill of 700m at 8,5% at one point it’s mostly downhill false flat or undulating terrain so should also help with a chase scenario, as this section is quite twisty, whereas once we rejoin King’s Road things get very straight and would favour the chase, so it’s better to let the attackers have a bit of time to consolidate and try to get out of sight, no?

Either way, this would then give way to a final 5km of mostly very straight urban roads heading through to that final 1500m dead straight that will hopefully look pretty stylish on screen. I would hope that the parcours I’ve come up with here would give us a nice and varied route; we have two stages for the sprinters, one for pure sprinters and one perhaps suiting slightly more durable riders; I have a short-mid-length ITT, a mountain stage which is not quite Unipuerto but where time gaps at the business end ought to be relatively small as the final climb will see all of the notable time made; and then a final weekend featuring a medium mountain stage with back to back steep medium-length climbs late on but then a bumpy run-in, and then this, a hilly stage which features some brutal gradients but only on very short climbs. The race also, although it covers a small amount of area and does include some repetition, showcases the geographical diversity of Hong Kong; only stages 1 and 2 are fully urban, with stage 4 in particular focusing on outlying natural beauty in the New Territories, and stages 3 and 5 featuring the most important parts of the stage in lush green mountains. Stage 6 is kind of the opposite, with beautiful vistas of the shoreline and the sea in the first half of the stage, and the GC-relevant parts of the stage being in the urban setting in the latter part. However, it should really showcase that Hong Kong could be as varied for cycling as it is culture-wise, as a consequence of its unique melting pot and cultural history.

And all with short stages, so this could make an early season flyaway race that teams could attend on their way back from the Tour Down Under if using this in the same fashion as the Tour of Guangxi is not preferred.
World Championships RR: Dinan, France


As I’ve mentioned before, whereas in countries that are a bit more tangential to cycling history, World Championships routes tend to be confined to some of the biggest cities - Montreal, Prague, Oslo, Lisbon, Doha, Innsbruck and Salzburg being examples of this (there are some comparative exceptions such as Utsonomiya and Goodwood) - countries with long established and ingrained cycling histories tend to offer up more variety in this; sure, there are still plenty of examples of major metropoles in these countries hosting the race - Barcelona, Madrid, Copenhagen, Firenze, Verona, Zürich - but there are also plenty of opportunities for smaller towns and cities to host such a prestigious event in those countries, with examples such as Plouay, Ponferrada, Sallanches, Moorslede, Valkenburg, Heerlen, Altenrhein, Mendrisio, Montello, Ronse or Ostuni. As you can see, most of these are in particularly cycling-supportive regions within their countries, such as Ticino in Switzerland, Limburg in the Netherlands and Brittany in France. This would be one such type of race, using a smaller city which is in an area which is known for its love of the sport.

With a population of around 15.000, Dinan is of a comparable size to Mendrisio and Valkenburg, and bigger than the likes of Yvoir and Moorslede - and a lot bigger than Plouay. Nestled in northern Brittany, we are deep in cycling homelands here; Brittany and, to its south, the Vendée, combine to constitute one of France’s most dedicated regions when it comes to cycling, and has given the sport many of its historic stars, as well as hosting many of its longest running races from every level through cadets and juniors and low level amateur events all the way up to the World Tour. The Tour de Brétagne/Trophée des Granitiers (formerly known as the Ruban Granitier Bréton) has run since the 1960s and is one of France’s most prestigious amateur/open races, with a winner’s list which includes Armand de las Cuevas, Evgeni Berzin, Dries Devenyns and Lars Boom, while other prominent names to have finished on the GC podium include Erik Breukink, Pascal Lino, Frédéric Guesdon, Simon Gerrans, Martijn Maaskant, Dylan Teuns and Lennard Hofstede; in the Cold War era it was one of the biggest western races accessible to the Ostbloc stars, so major names of the Communist countries’ péloton would come across and compete, with the likes of Stanisław Szozda, Krzysztof Sujka, Aleksandr Gusyatnikov and Yuri Kashirin among the winners and compatriots like Czesław Lang, Yuri Barinov and Viktor Demidenko also on the podium. It’s also one of the smallest races to ever go with an overseas Grand Départ, when in 2010 Jersey, which although close to the Bréton coast is a British possession as one of the Channel Islands, hosted the first two stages. Since 1987 a women’s version has also run, with winners including Catherine Marsal, Jeannie Longo, Judith Arndt, Hanka Kupfernagel, Emma Pooley, Anna van der Breggen, Elisa Longo Borghini, Grace Brown and, on two occasions, local favourite Audrey Cordon-Ragot.

There’s also other stage races like Kreizh Breizh Elites (running since 2000 with winners include Mathieu Ladagnous and Laurent Pichon) and Mi-Août en Brétagne (running in the 60s and then again from the 90s to 2012, with winners like Nicolas Jalabert and, in 2007, a little-heralded Kenyan called Chris Froome). Two of those three stage races now have women’s equivalents too, plus there are myriad one-day races such as the GP Ouest-France/GP Plouay/Brétagne Classic (and its women’s equivalent, the Trophée Lorient Agglomération) at the World Tour level, and pro races below that highest level include the GP Plumelec, Tro Bro Léon, Tour de Finistère, GP du Morbihan, Classique Morbihan (not to be confused with the former, this is a women’s race which is paired with the GP du Morbihan on a slightly different circuit), the Route Adélie de Vitré (formerly Tour Armorique) and formerly also the GP de Rennes (until 2008), Flèche d’Emeraude (until 2011) and Val d’Ille Classic (until 2013). Historically, although not the sole host, Brittany’s hills and ribinou would be a key factor in the Circuit de l’Ouest, a prestigious stage race which ran from 1931 to 1959 and had an extremely strong winner’s list including Romain Maes, Briek Schotte, Louison Bobet, Rik van Steenbergen and Marcel Janssens. So I do feel that this is a region where we can host the Worlds in a smaller, less established metropole.



Images from the Tour de Brétagne in Dinan

Dinan is situated on the river Rance, a little inland from Saint-Malo, which previously was the focal point of the Flèche d’Emeraude one day race. While the land by the coast is more or less flat, however, the Rance carves a valley here which gives us some hilly landscape to use. Much of the town is built on the hillside, so from the riverside there’s a bit of climbing to be done. It also made it easy to defend, so it became a fortified town very early on; parts of the old city walls remain intact to this day and some buildings date back as far as the thirteenth Century. The city is also at the centre of the veneration of Bertrand du Guesclin, known as the “Eagle of Brittany”, an important French commander in the Hundred Years’ War who was born nearby and whose heart is buried in Dinan.

Dinan is not the most common cycling host, although a good few races have gone through the city, often en route to locations like Saint-Malo, Saint-Brieuc or Mont-Saint-Michel. It did, however, host a stage start in the Tour de France in 2011, a lumpy stage that ended in a reduced bunch sprint won by Edvald Boasson Hagen. It has hosted a number of Tour de Brétagne finishes, however, hosting the final stage of the race pretty much every other year from 2006 until this was disrupted by the cancellation of the 2020 edition due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was brought back in 2021 but has not returned. Typically these stages use a 6km circuit around the city, which although hilly enough to be an interesting final stage and rule out the sprinters, is also far too short for a World Championships, and also often avoided the toughest obstacles that Dinan has to offer.


Typical Dinan closing circuit


2021 Dinan stage

I am, however, as many posts in this thread will prove, a little more sadistic than most real-life race organisers, so I’m going to try and make Dinan into a memorable world championships, because I feel that this town - although fairly established with traceurs - needs to be better known in professional cycling, because it has something that gives it a certain je ne sais quoi… wait, let’s call it a certain n’ouzon ket petra. My circuit is 14,6km in length, so I’m looking at probably something similar to the distances in my Aachen and Amersfoort circuits, so 11 laps for the women (160,6km), 13 laps for the U23 men (189,8km) and 18 for the elite men (262,8km) - slightly less distance than both of those races as the circuit is around 300-350m shorter, but it’s also a fair bit tougher than either too.



One of the biggest challenges for me in putting this course together was, strangely enough, figuring out where to put the finishing line. For the course, it seemed like across the river in Lanvallay was most convenient, but that did not offer somewhere that had the space for the needs. I didn’t want the finish too close to the main obstacles of the course either both to do with it harming the racing by putting it off until later and to do with safety if a large bunch came to it together, but the complex network of roads that come with a fortified town of this nature also make it a bit tricky. In the end, my loop to the west that extended out the circuit came together and enabled me to put things together to give us a short finishing straight (but then on this course we should not have to worry about a bunch kick, and it’s longer than the finishing straight in Glasgow’s Worlds course from 2023) and an incredibly scenic-looking finish outside the Château de Dinan.


Finish on the straight at the top of the screen, riders heading from top to bottom. Riders will come through the gate onto the road you see at the bottom of the screen at the start of each lap


Wider view showing off the scenery - start/finish left of centre, and then sweeping down through the curves centre bottom of the image. Helicam footage should be stunning here.

This should also be useful for the racing as it keeps the most significant obstacle away from the finish. The first part of the circuit takes us around the back of the Château de Léhon, a 13th century castle which formerly served as the epicentre of a village that has since been subsumed by Dinan, as we then circle around it heading slowly, vaguely downhill before crossing the Rance at a scenic old stone bridge.


This leads us to our first of three notable ascents on the circuit, the Côte de Rue Sainte Anne. The only profile I could find for this was on Strava, where the segment is referred to as the Mur de Rue Ste Anne, averaging as near as damnit to 10% for 540m, which is noticeably tougher than Cronoescalada, I would trust Strava more but their segments do seem to love exaggerating segments just as much as Cronoescalada loves being vague on these short segments, partly the legacy of the conflicting data between OSM and Google Maps, but partly also just a matter of auto-generation vs. Live data. Veloviewer has it at 630m at 7,4%, which matches closer to what I got out of Cronoescalada, but the profile shows that since all the steeper stuff is in the second half, the Strava profile is probably accurate in this case.

This murito is 3,4km into the circuit, so the last time the riders see it will be 11,2km from the line. They then follow along the plateau on a raised upland above the river valley through Vieux-Bourg and into Lanvallay, a small town which sits the opposite side of the river from Dinan and is to all intents and purposes part of its urban sprawl. This then leads to our crossing the Viaduct back into Dinan itself.


Viaduc de Dinan. We are crossing towards the camera

We turn left upon crossing the viaduct, and then loop around to descend down to the riverbank, passing beneath the viaduct that we just crossed but some 30m below. We then travel briefly along the scenic riverbank, but then it begins. The reason we’re here. The mighty, mythical cobbles of Dinan, the Côte de Jerzual, Rue Jerzual, all the good stuff. This is why traceurs love Dinan, and this is why cycling should spend more time here. It’s a beautifully unique kind of climb - it has the punishing surface of a Flandrian berg, but with the gradients of a Tirreno-Adriatico ramp. And it also has its own feel from appearances; unlike your average Belgian berg, there isn’t vast agricultural expanses or unsightly industrial towns bedecked in screaming drunk Belgians waving bright yellow flags of their preferred regional identity as a backdrop, but neither does this match the Tirreno-Adriatico feel. It perhaps has a bit more in common with the likes of the Ávila city walls across the town as a whole, but the Bréton Côte Emeraude is much lusher and greener, and the town itself much more quaint and medieval market style, with scenic trees and riverbanks behind it. The climb itself is only 600m in length, but it’s up at 11,1%, with a maximum of 17%. The first 250m average 14% and it starts to ease up after that, but even then it’s long stretches at 9-10%. And if it rains? Oh boy, we’re in for some fireworks.




At the top of the ascent, the cobbles continue for a little while, but they transition away from the climb’s cobbles and more towards those well-maintained, even city centre cobbles that don’t really present any challenge. It’s still pretty scenic but it also will make it hard for dropped riders to catch back on any small gap created on the climb. The summit of the climb comes at 6,1km from the line the final time, then after the run through the centre of the city, we have some more twists and turns that will favour the escapees to pass the city’s central rail station.

A couple of roundabouts then lead us up to the Rue Sainte Anne - not to be confused with the earlier one - which is a very straight road which averages 4,2% for 1,1km and will therefore suit the chase a bit better - but also give a final chance to make time or escape a small group. This crests 3,1km from the finish, before a couple of lefts at two roundabouts - taking the long way around for safety purposes - a couple of sweeping downhill curves, and then a fast run-in. At the bottom of the downhill there are two more roundabouts - but the downhill is no more steep than the ascent to Cassepot, another hamlet that has been subsumed by the city, so this should be no problem. The final kilometre does include some challenges - we actually take a 90º right at 800m from the line, followed swiftly by a 120º sweeping left and quick right into Place Duclos Pinot. This is to avoid the line where we arrived on the same square via the cobbled, pedestrianised city routes earlier.


About 625m from the line the road bears right but it’s a long curve, and then it bears right twice more, again just by about 10-20º and gradually - toward the line, with the final straight being around 450m in length. This finale should be fine given the difficulty of the rest of the course, because we aren’t likely to see a bunch gallop here. It’s not the most ideal finishing line, I agree, but we have seen far worse, and even the finish from the 2023 Worlds in Glasgow was more technical and potentially hazardous if a sprint took place, on a course without a 600m at 11% cobbled berg on it, and that was perfectly fine thanks to the attrition from the small climbs on that circuit. So this should be fine.

And great though the Glasgow Worlds were… no offence to the city, but this Dinan one should be prettier, no?
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World Championships RR: Austin, USA


We’re back in North America now for another Worlds course (or maybe a Pan-American RR or something like that, you know), and this time, since the last couple were somewhat flatter, it’s time for a more challenging one.

There are a lot of options in the USA for cities that could host a good Worlds course, and to be honest it’s a bit disappointing that we’ve only seen two World Championships over there - Colorado Springs in 1986 and Richmond in 2015. I had picked out a few different cities for possibilities - the initial intention was Pittsburgh since it would enable me to wax lyrical about their sports teams since I kind of adopted the city for my American sports teams, but it was going to be too similar with cobbled courses to a couple of other ones I had at about the same time (though I was going to use this as a stage in my Great American Road Race). Then I had ideas based around historic American races, but then I’d just want to copy the San Francisco GP, or the Philadelphia International Criterium, because I’m a sucker for some history/tradition. Likewise I just thought, I’d do a Colorado one but if Colorado was going to host a World Championships, it’d feel wrong for it not to be on the Morgul-Bismarck loop. A couple of prospective routes had been drawn up in Cincinnati and Boise, but eventually I settled on putting the course not in one of the country’s traditional cycling bases like Colorado or California, but instead in the part of the country where everything’s supposedly bigger and better - Texas.

Because of the, well, Eurocentric nature of the sport, a lot of climb mapping sites are pretty much exclusive to the continent - Cyclingcols and Climbfinder for example are fully Europe-centric, while others like salite.ch and Altimetrias are mostly Europe-based with a few climbs, usually in South America, that are included. There are very few that give us good details on the US climbs, except for a few big HCs or climbs with professional racing history like Pikes Peak or Mount Washington in the former category, and things like Brasstown Bald, Independence Pass and Mount Baldy in the latter. Thankfully, though, Pjammcycling is here to rectify this a bit, giving us a lot more scope for accurate mapping of smaller climbs in the US. Plus, for us heathen Euros who use the metric system, you can change the settings to convert the default, Americans’ preferred feet and miles, to metres and kilometres to make them a bit more understandable to those of us outside the States.


Now, considering how much it has mapped in the States, Texas actually has pretty limited coverage on Pjamm. The logical cities to include were El Paso, Dallas and Austin. From these, I plumped for the latter. There were a multitude of reasons for this; reasons against the other two were that I felt that an El Paso circuit either had to be very long or would have a 2,1km @ 3,6% climb as its hardest part, and that I hate the Dallas Cowboys. Reasons for Austin are that it is currently a very trendy, up and coming destination, it is by far the most liberal major city in Texas with a strong counter-cultural underbelly, and more shallowly, it gave me a few people to talk about. Largely because of that counter-cultural underbelly, admittedly.

The main seed of that has been through the music scene. Austin has long been associated with music, dating back to the 19th Century, and it even markets itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World”, with dozens of venues and a burgeoning scene dating back to the 1940s and the Dessau Hall revues. This resulted, from the 1960s onwards, in the city becoming a base in which many musicians would settle, being able to get regular gigs and develop their reputations, learning their craft and improving rapidly. Country musicians, blues rockers, and 60s classics would all see their times to shine in Austin; famous acts from the city in this era include the 13th Floor Elevators, Woodstock Generation legends of psychedelic rock, and a young college student from east of Houston who had settled in the city to study, by the name of Janis Joplin. In 1970, popular country venue The Vulcan morphed into the Armadillo World HQ, and swiftly became a hub for outlaw country music, as artists like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings abandoned Nashville for Austin, attracting a mixed audience of “both hippies and rednecks”, and creating what became known as “progressive country” or “Austin music”. Clifford Antone founded a blues club in his own name in 1975 which had a similar effect, with names like Stevie Ray Vaughn emerging out of its wake. This soon led to the creation of the Austin City Limits live music television programme which has become an iconic part of the cityscape, and the city’s reputation for being ahead of the curve meant it was often preferred to larger Texas metropoles by touring punk and new wave bands, which in turn led to Austin being at the epicentre of the region’s alternative music scene, a role it persists in to this day - especially thanks to the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival, a specialist alternative music and culture multi-venue event that has become one of the most sought-after opportunities for up-and-coming bands.


Indie and alternative acts tend to proliferate in the city; popular acts include avant-garde psychedelic noise-rockers Butthole Surfers (originally founded in San Antonio but long based in Austin), pre-Jesus Lizard noiseniks (and highly underrated) Scratch Acid, destructive art-rockers …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, skate punk pioneers Big Boys, early punk pioneers The Dicks and MDC, post-rockers Explosions In The Sky, post-punk revivalists (read: Joy Division wannabes) I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, alt-country indie darlings Okkervil River, shoegazers Ringo Deathstarr, indie-poppers Voxtrot and US indie semi-royalty Spoon. It was also in Austin that legendary outsider artist Daniel Johnston would first come to peoples’ attention, passing out homemade T-shirt designs and cassettes while working at a McDonalds in the city.

The alternative nature of the city does not stop at music; it has become one of the epicentres of the craft beer movement in the US (lagging behind only Colorado and Albuquerque) and has more food trucks for soul food and street food than anywhere else in the US, as well as being a centre for filming a number of low budget slasher and horror films following the success of the locally-filmed Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which led to it also being chosen for Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse project, and also the hometown of controversial but much-missed counter-cultural comedian Bill Hicks, who was something of a latter-day equivalent to a Lenny Bruce, who died young in the mid-90s from pancreatic cancer but toured throughout his illness, often playing to audiences to whom he was ideologically directly opposed and even releasing albums of such gigs.

An interesting thing about Austin, however, is that from a sporting perspective, it’s something of a backwater which is only developing recently; it has not one franchise in any of America’s big four leagues, the NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL; hell, except in the NBA where you can head over to San Antonio, just over 100km away, to see the Spurs, you’ve got to go at least to Houston if you want to see the big leagues; in the NHL, however, you have to go all the way to Dallas - since in fairness, Texas is hardly hockey country. On the plus side, you do have the Dallas Stars’ AHL affiliate the Texas Stars if you want to see second-tier hockey, and with the establishment of Austin FC in 2018 bringing an MLS team to the city, they got their first elite pro team, albeit not in one of the big four leagues - and starting off at an inopportune time, playing their first season in the pandemic-affected 2020-21 season. The city is also home (approximately) to the Circuit of the Americas, one of divisive racetrack designer Hermann Tilke’s more popular creations, which has brought Formula 1 back to the US as well as MotoGP, the NASCAR Cup Series, WEC, Indycar and even the Aussie V8 Supercar series.


Circuit of the Americas, with the city skyline in the background

One sport where Austin has not lagged behind, however, is the non-sport that is professional wrestling; two of the all time greatest and most successful names in the sport were born in the city. The first was Virgil Runnells, who defied the odds as a blotchy, rotund man from humble background to become one of the most popular stars in North America, with his non-athletic look and rise from being “the son of a plumber” making him sympathetic to the everyman in the audience, his televangelist Southern preacher interviews overcoming his lisp and making him captivating and talking people to arenas and even stadia to see him; the man embodied the American dream to the audience he was performing for - so much so that it became part of his stage monicker, as "The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Dusty has long relocated to Florida, and his two sons, Dustin (better known as Goldust) and Cody, both took up the ‘Rhodes’ stage name at times in their careers and have kept the family dynasty alive on the screen ever since.

The other son of Austin to go into pro wrestling was originally named Steve Williams, but in order to avoid confusion with the then-better known Dr. Death Steve Williams, a former amateur standout who was a moderately big name in wrestling in the late 80s and early 90s, he took a new surname which has since become his legal name - and he chose to name himself after the city of his birth. Originally given the appellation “Stunning” and pushed into the tag ranks after being told he wasn’t at a high enough level to enter an angle with Hulk Hogan, he was fired from WCW while injured, appeared in ECW where he was given a platform to air his grievances, which to that audience made him a popular anti-hero, before swiftly moving to the WWF, shaving his head and rechristening himself "Stone Cold” Steve Austin. He was booked on the fly to win the King of the Ring tournament to replace the original chosen winner due to disciplinary reasons, and delivered a promo where he mocked Jake Roberts’ born-again Christian gimmick, saying “Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass” and igniting probably the hottest period in wrestling history as one of the most iconic figures, a beer-drinking, foul-mouthed antihero who hated his boss, felt underappreciated, would not kowtow to corporate sponsors and rebelled - making him one of the most popular wrestlers of the - or in fact any - era, and all it took was the first half second of his entrance music, with the iconic sound of glass shattering, for the crowd to come unglued.

But from the pomp and circumstance of pro wrestling and the glitz and glamour of Formula 1, let’s take things down a notch and talk pro cycling.



The circuit I’ve designed here is 17,7km in length and is in the small hills to the northwest of the city forged by the valley of the Colorado river and a few of its smaller tributaries. This would suggest as a pure circuit race we would have 9 for the elite women (159,3km), 11 for the U23 men (194,7km) and 15 for the elite men (265,5km). Alternatively, we could have a flat run-in for the elite men from San Antonio, which would yield around 120km before the circuit so would mean probably 8 laps to get us a little over 260km, and if that was the case probably the elite women and U23 men would have a shorter run of 30-40k from the Circuit of the Americas, before probably 7 laps for the women to get somewhere in the upper 150km mark, and maybe the U23 men would need a few laps of CotA itself otherwise they end up with more laps of the circuit than the elite men which would seem a bit silly.


Far West Boulevard, finishing straight

I’ve put the start/finish on Far West Boulevard, a wide open and straight road in the northern suburbs of the city, more for its convenience on the course of the circuit. The main thing with this one is that unlike previous courses I’ve showcased here, the obstacles on the course are somewhat backloaded, along similar lines to courses like Floreffe 1935, the various Valkenburg courses with Cauberg finales, Yvoir 1975, San Cristóbal de Tachirá 1977, Colorado Springs 1986, Agrigento 1994 or Richmond 2015. Note that both prior US Worlds courses had similar formatting, so I have elected to utilise this - although this is I believe a tougher course more suited to the puncheurs than those courses, with the actual characteristics of the difficulties on the circuit more similar to 2009 Mendrisio, albeit on a longer circuit so spacing those hills out more meaning it might keep a larger group together longer than we saw in that particular edition.

The first part of the circuit will also support a péloton, turning right and heading along the wide open Balcones Drive, parallel to the North Mopac Expressway for the first couple of kilometres of slightly downhill false flat, before a 90º right hander and a series of sweeping downhill - but wide and not steep so very safe - curves into Bright Leaf Preserve. Some flat along the uplands above the Colorado river follow before the final part of downhill takes us to the first crossing of Bull Creek, a small tributary of the Colorado, which carved a lot of the hillside that will characterise the selective part of the circuit. This is an area flanked by a multitude of hiking trails, parks and wild swimming spots that make it an ideal site for cycling, passing under the North Capital of Texas Highway and into leafy green areas. This first half of the circuit is largely straight or gently curving, but things soon ramp up - quite literally.


Jester Boulevard, named not for the medieval clown character but instead for Beaufort Jester, the 36th Governor of Texas, is a side road from the 2222 highway at Vaught Ranch which ascends pretty dramatically. It’s a wide and well paved road which gives the lie to how steep it is, making it seem illusorily less likely to be as nasty a climb as it actually is. Pjamm’s climb profile is a little unclear on the distance (it’s down as 0,6 miles which is 0,96km, they put it to 0,9km however due to rounding so it must be a little shorter than that. Since it climbs 100m and the average gradient is recorded as 11,3%, we can extrapolate that the distance is very close to 900m and so the miles figure is due to rounding, as 0,5 miles is about 800m and the actual distance is therefore closer to 0,6 than 0,5). The steepest 100m is at 16,9% and the middle stretch of 500m averages 14,3% so this is more than sufficient to create some separation, even on wide open roads with perfect pristine tarmac. The only comment on the Pjamm page suggests this is a popular hill for the locals and understandably so. The summit comes at 10,4km into the circuit so would be 7,3km from the finish on the last lap. We then descend via a couple of other known climbing routes - Lakewood Drive could be used all the way but we cut off the more gradual part by taking the steeper Beaufort Drive; this sees a descent with sweeping curves but no real technical challenges of 1,3km at 7,7% before we pass back under the North Capital of Texas Highway and re-cross Bull Creek.

We go through Bull Creek, then a few corners through a housing area before turning left at the base of Far West Boulevard, and heading back to the finish. Not so fast, though! We still have to get back up to the altitude we started at, because this is a hillside!


Far W Boulevard’s western extent at base of shot

My cronoescalada profile suggests this is a kilometre at 8%, but using a RidewithGPS profile that somebody drew of their own ride it seems to climb over 100m in 1200m, so this would appear more like 1,2km at 8,3%. The Strava segment would appear to back this up, being 1,26km at 8,4%. It’s definitely tough enough - the KOM on Strava is held by Lawson Craddock, who is perhaps Texas’ best exponent of the sport at present - so not too shabby - and you can also see gravel specialist Payson McElveen in the top 10. Interestingly this is with 96m elevation gain in the first 900m which again has us over 10%, this time at around 10,7%, although this is much more consistent than Jester Boulevard had been. Maximum according to the Strava segment is 19,4%, but that’s incredibly brief so margin of error suggests that there isn’t a sustained patch of this. Even so, with this climb cresting close to the finish - the last 200m are just false flat and mostly in a straight line and then there’s 1,5km of flat and downhill false flat that are absolutely ramrod straight to the finishing line - it offers the final chance to escape. The finishing straight being so long will suit chasers, you would think, but then the issue would always arise that it being a short run-in makes it hard to ascertain when you start playing games to preserve your sprint. I see this run-in as being an amped up, tougher version of the 2012 Worlds finish which was used for Amstel Gold for many years until the recent adjustment to stop Cauberg being the final climb - and the finish which is still used in women’s Amstel Gold to this day. The two climbs are both tougher than Cauberg, however. It’s not dissimilar from the Mende finish on the aerodrome after Montée Laurent Jalabert, but the final climb is easier than that and the distance to the line is longer. It’s not dissimilar to the finale in the Mendrisio Worlds but with a shorter run-in. The paucity of locations in Europe where such a finish is commonly possible means direct comparisons for this type of finale from major races are difficult to find - probably the best I can come up with is the Mauriac finish from the Women’s Tour de France in 2023. But then the finish - a climb of “3,4km at 5,8%” but the actual finish of the climb was 1400m from the finish, before a slight down and then uphill ramp again.

Either way, this is a puncheur’s Worlds in terms of its ascents, with the two climbs being 900m @ 11,3% and 1250m @ 8,4% - but also the straight run-in favours small groups and the long rolling first half of the lap makes earlier solo escapes hard to make stick without serious commitment and legs. I think this should balance things out nicely between those who want to go solo and those who want to sprint from a small group, because while the final ascent being so close to the line may result in some tentative racing before the last lap, at the same time anybody who doesn’t back themselves from a small group can’t leave it that long - the pure wall riders are not going to fancy that final 1700m unless they get a big enough gap to make it count.
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I'm ready to kick off the second edition of my Fraustro Tour. This time it'll have 6 stages taking place over 5 days, and none of them will be over 100 km in length. Whereas the inaugural race was a north to south kind of affair, this one will start in the west of the country and work its way east.

Fraustro Tour II

Stage 1: Friedrichshafen - Bludenz, 93 km


So as you can see, the race actually starts in Germany. Friedrichshafen is known for Zeppelins and the EUROBIKE exhibition, among others things, but that is not why we're here. The area around the Bodensee/Lake Constance have produced many great riders over the years. Emmanuel Buchmann is from the board game metropol of Ravensburg 20 km from Friedrichshafen, Matthias Brändle is from Hohenems, which will be visited during this stage, Olympic MTB champion Jolanda Neff as well as Rolf Järmann are from the Swiss side of the lake, and former road race world champion Barbara Heeb also grew up around these parts.

However the main reason for starting out in Friedrichshafen is to pay tribute to the city's most famous daughter: Liane Lippert.


Lippert became European champion in 2016 ahead of Elisa Balsamo

The podium of the 2020 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race


Lippert started her career at the local RSV Seerose cycling club, which her father Kurt was also very much involved with. During her time at the club, she became friends with Clara Koppenburg and Laura Süßemilch; here photographed together at the 2021 Thüringen Ladies Tour


Lippert outsprinting Kopecky for the win on stage 2 of last year's Tour de France Femmes

Liane Lippert is of course well known for her aggressive riding style, puncheuse abilities and for being a solid and versatile domestique, who can both help the likes of Juliette Labous and Annemiek van Vleuten on climbs and Lorena Wiebes in sprints. Sadly we haven't yet seen much of her in 2024, as Movistar have been careful not to overrace after her recent hip/femur fracture.

The Fraustro Tour organisers would love to see her participate in this race, where she'd probably be among the biggest favourites, and I'm sure she'd also be excited for the opportunity to ride on her home roads.


Lippert being honoured at Friedrichshafen's Sportlerehrung awards in March for her cycling achievements

The first 50 km of the opening stage are fairly flat. They include 3 points sprints in Lindau, Bregenz and Dornbirn respectively. The next part of the stage is, unintentionally, similar to the first stage of last year's Tour of Austria, due to the course going through Rankweil and then uphill to the town of Thüringerberg, at the entrance to the Großwalsertal. However I've decided to split the climb in two by adding 1.5 km of climbing to Düns, before a descent takes the riders back down to the road they left earlier. By doing this, the first part of the climb becomes harder and you also eliminate some false flat before the start of the last part.


The first climb is the first 5 km of this profile (I deemed that going all the way to the top of Dünserberg was a bit too excessive for stage 1).

And then the last climb is the last 4-ish km of the profile below.

From the top, there are still 13 km left to the finish. The first 4 km is a steep descent to Thüringen, but it isn't overly technical apart from a few corners.

Bludenz hosted a Tour of Austria stage in 2011 where André Greipel was victorious. I'm not sure where the line was on that occasion, but I've opted for a finish next to the town hall.
During the final kilometres, the riders will pass the Fohrenburg brewery as well as the Autohaus Leidinger, where my parents and I once had our car repaired after it broke down on the Arlberg Schnellstraße. Hopefully both the bikes and the team cars will make it through the stage without such issues.


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So I had a women's GT of Germany route which finished with a penultimate stage into Friedrichshafen for precisely this reason.

It then finished with an ITT in Kempten in tribute to Lisa Brennauer.

I worked my Brennauer (and Ceratizit) tribute into that Kleinwalsertal stage I made for my first Deutschland Tour, but if I ever make a women's edition, I definitely have to honour her in some way during that as well.
Fraustro Tour II

Stage 2: Bludenz - Landeck, 71 km

It's probably no surprise that we'll be leaving the region of Vorarlberg on day 2 and make our way towards Tirol. This stage is quite similar to my Felbertauern stage to Lienz from the first edition, in the way that it has a big climb early on and then some shorter bumps near the finish.


The ascent to the top of the Arlbergpass pretty much starts from km zero, but the first 22 km are mostly false flat. When the riders reach Klösterle, the last 11 km average over 6%. At almost 1800 m, the altitude will probably also play a role here.


38 km remain from the top. The first 6 km of the descend are about 7.5% downhill, so differences can be made here. Before the next 20 km of slight downhill begins, there'll be a bonus sprint in St. Anton. In Pians, we're leaving the Bundesstraße in order to climb to the town of Grins (approx. 1.8 km, 7.9%). After a 3 km descent, the riders will then tackle the last obstacle of the day.

When you're designing a stage to Landeck, it's very tempting to include the climb to Tobadill, but here I'm only using the first km of the eastern side, which averages about 8%. It is followed by a short descent before a flat finish next to the town hall.


Fraustro Tour II

Stage 3: Landeck - Samnaun, 83 km

It's time for the race's emperor/empress stage.

With only a couple of exceptions, my parents visited Austria every summer 30 years in a row. From the start first then they were joined by my mother's parents and then later also by their own children for the rest of that era. Being the youngest kid, I only took part in the last third of those trips, but my parents and I have visited the country together multiple times since then.

One of the excursions which quickly became an annual thing for my family was a visit to the ski resort and duty free area of Samnaun, where you can get cigarettes, whiskey and wild, wild women (or at least two of those things) at a cheaper price than in Austria and Switzerland.


Before the riders get there, they will first have a small appetizer when they turn left in the town of Prutz and climb their way through Faggen and Kauns towards the point where the L64 meets the road to the Kaunertaler Gletscherstraße. However they won't be tackling that beast on this occasion and will quickly descend back down to Prutz instead.

Next up are two sprints in Ried and Pfunds, before they'll cross the Swiss border. When they reach Martina, it's time for some more climbing. The Norbertshöhe will bring us back to Austria, where the road from the Reschenpass will lead the riders down to the outskirts of Pfunds once again. After they've crossed the Kajetansbrücke over the Inn river, it's finally time for the main course and dessert.



The climb to Samnaun featured in the 2002 Tour de Suisse, where the Vino option would have handed you a win in the pre-stage poll. For sentimental reasons, I've put the finish line next to Hermelindis Einkauf-Center, which is about 400 m before the end of the paved road through town. A true climber should win here and possibly also hold the race lead ahead of the last 3 stages.


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Well I guess I should get around to finish my race at some point.

Fraustro Tour II

Stage 4: Zams - Innsbruck, 70 km

Before the last day of racing, we'll have a fairly easy stage. Starting from the town of Zams, we'll follow Inn all the way to Innsbruck, the Tyrolean capital. Here you can enjoy a variety of attractions. These are some of them:

The city is associated with wintersports and ski jumping in particular. Both the 1964 and '76 Winter Olympics took place here, and the Bergiselschanze hosts the third event of the annual Vierschanzentournee.


When it comes to ski jumping, my GOAT is Gregor Schlierenzauer, here caught flying above his home town in 2013. Visible in the photo are both the Wilten Basilica and the Wilten Abbey

Next to ski jump arena, you'll find the Tirol Panorama museum. Here you can experience the Riesenrundgemälde panoramic painting, which depicts the Tyrolean Rebellion during the Napoleonic Wars in 1809. It was led by local innkeeper Andreas Hofer, not to confuse with the former national ITT champion of the same name. The painting was previously on display in a designated building in the city before it was moved to Bergisel in 2010, which not everyone was a fan of.


At Hungerburg on the opposite side of the city, you can visit the Alpenzoo or take the cable car up the mountain.


In the Altstadt, you can walk up to the viewing platform in the 14th century Stadtturm, from where you'll be able enjoy the sight of the Goldenes Dachl and the Gothic style Heblinghaus (the photo below is not actually taken from the platform though).



In the world of cycling, Innsbruck is of course well remembered for having hosted the 2018 Road World Championships. The women's elite road race was won by Anna van der Breggen in commanding fashion, while Austria achieved its first ever gold medal in women's road cycling when Innsbruck's own Laura Stigger crossed the line first in the junior road race. Being an MTBer first and foremost, she hasn't ridden a race on the road since the U23 RR at the EC in Trento 3 years ago. However I do hope we'll see her and the other local off-roader Mona Mitterwallner get selected for the WC RR in the future.


Stigger celebrating her win ahead of the almost always happy Marie Le Net and with Simone Boilard coming in third

Back to my race. The stage is quite flat for the area with the Imsterberg being the only real challenge. I think I placed the finish line close to the university, so the tram tracks didn't become too much of an issue.


Ah, Schlieri. Won everything he could except an individual Olympic gold between 2007-2013 then completely fell off at the age of 24. Still holds the record for most World Cup wins with 53.
Also he was amazing in that Innsbruck 2013 competition, dominant win which got him a 2nd consecutive 4 Hills title.

Oh, small note, Innsbruck also hosted Large Hill competitions in 2019 Nordic Ski World Championships.
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Ah, Schlieri. Won everything he could except an individual Olympic gold between 2007-2013 then completely fell off at the age of 24. Still holds the record for most World Cup wins with 53.
Also he was amazing in that Innsbruck 2013 competition, dominant win which got him a 2nd consecutive 4 Hills title.

Oh, small note, Innsbruck also hosted Large Hill competitions in 2019 Nordic Ski World Championships.

I haven't paid too much attention to the ski jumping World Cup in recent years, apart from watching a competition here and there, so I was surprised to learn that Stefan Kraft is only 10 wins away from equaling Schlieri's record now.
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I haven't paid too much attention to the ski jumping World Cup in recent years, apart from watching a competition here and there, so I was surprised to learn that Stefan Kraft is only 10 wins away from equaling Schlieri's record now.
I haven't watched much since 2018 or so either, but Kraft's 2015 (Winner of 4 Hills, 3rd Overall at World Cup not far behind Freund and Prevc, and 3rd in WCH Normal Hill) and 2017 seasons (Winner of World Cup, Winner of both Normal Hill and Large Hill at WCH) showed he was already a great. Not surprised by his further achievements.

If he wins an Olympic Gold he will have won everything in his career (he added Ski Flying WCH this year, he also won World Cup for the 3rd time, he also has 3 Nordic Ski WCH golds)

Kraft basically seems to have become a star after Schlieri fell off. (In 14/15 season)
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I haven't watched much since 2018 or so either, but Kraft's 2015 (Winner of 4 Hills, 3rd Overall at World Cup not far behind Freund and Prevc, and 3rd in WCH Normal Hill) and 2017 seasons (Winner of World Cup, Winner of both Normal Hill and Large Hill at WCH) showed he was already a great. Not surprised by his further achievements.

If he wins an Olympic Gold he will have won everything in his career (he added Ski Flying WCH this year, he also won World Cup for the 3rd time, he also has 3 Nordic Ski WCH golds)

Kraft basically seems to have become a star after Schlieri fell off. (In 14/15 season)
Don't forget the crazy anomaly that was Thomas Diethart. Got into the 2013-14 Vierschanzentournee from the national group, somehow managed to win the whole thing, won an Olympic medal, and then disappeared straight back to the Continental Cup anonymity he'd been before, before suffering serious injuries that he never recovered from to ever be able to indicate whether he could make it back to the top.

It was like having the cycling career of Chris Froome up to age 26, and then the career of Fabio Aru from age 26 onward.
Don't forget the crazy anomaly that was Thomas Diethart. Got into the 2013-14 Vierschanzentournee from the national group, somehow managed to win the whole thing, won an Olympic medal, and then disappeared straight back to the Continental Cup anonymity he'd been before, before suffering serious injuries that he never recovered from to ever be able to indicate whether he could make it back to the top.

It was like having the cycling career of Chris Froome up to age 26, and then the career of Fabio Aru from age 26 onward.
That was a complete shock. Without him it would have been an amazing duel between Thomas Morgenstern (who had a very strong performance despite the injury in Tittisee-Neustadt, in what turned out to be his last season) and Simon Ammann (who was also having one of his last good seasons and Vierschanzentournee was the trophy he never won ) with Kamil Stoch and Gregor Schlierenzauer dropping the ball (Schlieri basically fell off, got only 1 win rest of his career)
I thought Diethart was like Cobo but Cobo won Pais Vasco 2007 and a stage in Tour 2008 before (also top 10 in Vuelta 2009).
Fraustro Tour II

Stage 5a: Unterperfuss - Kematen, 32.5 km


The Triumphpforte in Innsbruck as it looked through my mother's camera lens in 1974

As previously mentioned, my family used to holiday in Austria quite a bit. My parents first visited Innsbruck in 1974 and kept coming back. A lot of days and nights were spend at the Farm Camping in Unterperfuss, until the Hörtnagl family got rid of their swimming pool in the late 90's, which made us explore other campsites in the area in the following years (Georg Hörtnagl was later elected mayor of the town, so I guess the locals weren't as bothered by it as us).


Me being kept from drowning in the aforementioned swimming pool, back when Rolf Sørensen and I both had blond hair in July

From Farm we also went on trips to other parts of Tyrol and Austria and sometimes to Italy as well. It also became a tradition to drive up the Kühtaisattel and find somewhere to bath in the Melach river. That's also what we're gonna do on this stage, although the riders probably won't have time to enjoy a dip in the water on this occasion.


A view over the campsite and the town with the mountains to the north of Innsbruck in the background

From the start outside the Farm Camping and accompanying Branger Alm restaurant, which has its own brewery, the climbing starts almost immediately. The route goes through Oberperfuss and past the Tiefental-Kapelle in Hinterburg, before descending down to Sellrain and continuing to the finish line in Kematen. This loop will be ridden twice before a winner is crowned. Just like in the first edition of the race, we'll have a short and intense road stage on the final day. However this time it's only the first of two challenges.

The climb is the first 4.7 km of Stiglreith/Sulzstich, but with another km at around 6% added on to it.



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I had a couple Vuelta stages I designed but did not fit into a GT. So if I do I may be posting a 6th version of a Vuelta or a 21-stage Tour of Turkey (I actually designed one all the way back in 2016 but did not continue posting here after a couple of stages-had MTFs at Kartepe and Babadag and some other tough stages-so it may have some stages from that)
Fraustro Tour II

Stage 5b: Hall in Tirol - Jenbach, 25.8 km ITT

I wasn't sure whether to start the ITT in Hall or move it to the Swarovski Kristallwelten in Wattens, where the women's ITT started at the Innsbruck Worlds, and which I also have fond memories of visiting as a child. I also considered including the Gnadenwald climb, to make up for the female riders not getting to ride it in their ITT in 2018. In the end I went for the longer version, but without any really difficult climbs.

The reason for starting in Hall was so I got the opportunity to mention Mona Mitterwallner once again, as well as Austria's up-and-coming biathlete Anna Gandler and Nordic combined star Johannes Lamparter, who all seem to have been born here within a year in the early 2000s. Biathlete Felix Leitner and Nordic combined skier Lukas Greiderer are also from the town or thereabouts.


Mona Mitterwallner winning her second cross-country marathon (XCM) WC title in Glasgow last year


In addition to being able to handle a rifle, Anna Gandler also plays the violin

Out on the course, the riders will pass through Volders, where the host of the town's campsite, for a reason I can't remember, speaks/spoke a little bit of Danish. But the biggest attraction on the route is of course the aforementioned Swarovski Kristallwelten.


There are two major reasons for finishing the time trial in Jenbach. and they are Christina and Kathrin Schweinberger. The Tyrol Twins, born about a minute apart (Kathrin is the oldest), originally did alpine skiing before they caught the cycling bug. They apparently also did judo when they were younger.



As sisters and training partners they've always had each other's backs

Kathrin being the faster sprinter and also the better time trialist early showed her promise by winning 3 national junior titles (1 RR, 2 ITT) and followed that up with two elite RR titles in 2020 and '21. However since they left the controversial Marc Bracke's Doltcini - Van Eyck team, it's been the younger sister who's reached the biggest results.


Kathrin took her first ever UCI win by outsprinting Demi Vollering on the last stage of the Tour of Uppsala in 2018

Having won the ITT and finished 3rd overall in Gracia - Orlová in 2022, followed by two close wins ahead of Olympic champion Anna Kiesenhofer at the Austrian NC, Christina's real breakthrough came in 2023. With achievements such as 8th places is both Omloop and Brugge-De Panne, 5th in Gent-Wevelgem, 15th in Paris-Roubaix and 5th in Thüringen Ladies Tour, her season had already been a success before the Worlds in Glasgow.

By managing to close a 5 second gap to Anna Henderson in the final kilometres of the time trial, she ended up with a surprising and huge bronze medal. A few days later she finished 5th in the road race, and at the EC in Drenthe a month later, she won another bronze in the ITT, before Kiesenhofer was the one winning their internal battle by one second for the win in Chrono des Nations on the last race day of the season.


The sisters have also had decent results in 2024 so far, with Christina in particular having raced aggressively on multiple occasions, while also beeng a fine teammate for Puck Pieterse among others. But the season isn't over yet, and it'll be interesting to see what the rest of the year has in store for the twins. The FT organisers hope both of them would show up for their race, either for their trade or national teams.


This stage design has received the rare honour of a double Schweinberger thumbs-up

26 km is quite a lot for women's time trial, especially considering it's also the second stage of the day. In the Baloise Ladies Tour, they have a 2 hour road stage followed by an ITT later in the day, which has been about 15 km in recent editions. Here the road stage will only last an hour, so there will be time enough to do a recon of the time trial course beforehand, although the legs might be tired.

I assume it coud lead to a lot of changes in the GC, depending on the differences in time trialing abilities between the best placed riders. Someone who's 2 or 3 minutes behind before the stage won't be out of it yet. The winner of this second edition of the Fraustro Tour will have proved she can handle tough climbs and descents as well being able to defend herself well against the clock.