Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) were due to fight until the season’s end in the Tour of Beijing to decide the 2014 WorldTour title, but both Spanish cyclists will skip the series’ last race on the calendar.
Contador crashed in Il Lombardia on Sunday, missed his chance to gain points on Valverde and called off his Chinese trip. Soon after his announcement and with the WorldTour title confirmed, Valverde followed suit.
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“The Tour of Beijing is not among the most important races on the calendar, but what worries me now is the knee,” said Contador. “So I want to stop and be sure it is in good condition to start next year with full guarantees.”
Contador banged his knee near where he broke his right tibia in the Tour de France on July 14. The crash caused him to abandon the Tour de France, but he was able to return and win the Vuelta a España.
Valverde placed second in Lombardia and maintained his lead in the WorldTour series that began in January with the Tour Down Under. Without his main rival attending the series finale, Valverde had little reason to travel to China.
Team Movistar said: “Due to sporting reasons and as a result of his recent fatherhood, which already made him not travel to Italy from his homeland Murcia until Saturday evening, Alejandro Valverde won’t eventually take part in the Tour of Beijing.”
Valverde leads by 66 points in the WorldTour individual rankings, with 686 over Contador’s 620. Contador led before Lombardia.
Contador already won the WorldTour series in 2009. Joaquím Rodriguez (Katusha) won last year ahead of Chris Froome (Sky).
The last minute changes by Valverde and Contador only underscores the Tour of Beijing’s dwindling importance. At the World Championships last month, cycling president Brian Cookson announced that he was cutting the race from the 2015 WorldTour.
Former president Pat McQuaid began the race in 2011 as part of the UCI’s organisation branch, Global Cycling Promotion (GCP). Cookson confirmed that with the Tour of Beijing gone, the GCP would also end.
“The GCP will be wound down after the Tour Of Beijing this year, we don’t see the UCI as being a major promoter outside the World Championships and World Cups,” said Cookson.
“The GCP did a good job with the Tour of Beijing, but it didn’t achieve its other objectives, and it put in us in a conflict of interest.”
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