The UCI and Wanda Sports celebrated an agreement overnight that will take the top WorldTour series to China for the Tour of Guangxi for the next three years.
Cycling Weekly first revealed details of the race last month after the UCI introduced the idea at the Professional Cycling Council (PCC) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. Three weeks later, at a ceremony in the China, the UCI made the agreement official.
“A ground-breaking agreement that will develop men’s and women’s elite and grassroots cycling across various disciplines in China,” a statement read.
“The agreement includes the creation of the Tour of Guangxi, a new UCI WorldTour race, taking the men’s professional road cycling peloton to one of China’s most popular tourism destinations.
“To be held in October, this event will pass through a mix of metropolitan areas and stunning countryside scenery over six days of racing.”
The Tour of Guangxi will boost the Women’s WorldTour and bring the number of men’s WorldTour races up to 38.
However, the new UCI rules say that the top teams like Team Sky may skip the 11 new events added for 2017. They have the right and must attend the original 27 events, including big Classics and Tour de France.
The new tour, in China’s southern autonomous Guangxi region bordering Vietnam, marks the UCI’s return to the Far East after six years.
The UCI itself organised the Tour of Beijing for four years, from 2011 to 2014, won twice by Tony Martin and last by Philippe Gilbert.
Wang Jianlin, the the founder and chairman of Dalian Wanda Group, is in charge this time. Forbes named him Asia’s richest person with $28.7 billion (£23.1b). His Wanda Group reported CN¥290.16 billion (£34.45b) in revenues in 2015.
The sport subsidiary, Wanda Sports will organise the events. It adds to a portfolio that already includes Infront Sports & Media and the World Triathlon Corporation along with Ironman.
“We are extremely pleased to be announcing this investment in cycling in China,” Wang Jianlin said. “This partnership with the UCI and the region of Guangxi represents a major addition to our sporting portfolio.
“We know that China has a tremendous potential in cycling and we are proud that Wanda Sports will be instrumental in realising that potential, with the support of great partners.”
CW understands that Lincoln Zhang sits at the top level of the race organisation, president of the Wanda Cultural Industry Group. Below him, Philippe Blatter and David Yang from Wanda’s cultural group and CEO of the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), Andrew Messick
They will organise the men’s and women’s events, but also mass participation events for amateur cyclists to ride part of the elite course and a school cycling programme.
Wanda Sports is also due to build a cycling centre linked to the World Cycling Centre at the UCI’s headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland. It should have a 250-metre indoor track, a BMX track and a road circuit.
The UCI said the time was right to return to China.
“Bike ownership in China has reached 600 million. The world’s most populous country also has 10 million active cycling fans, 20,000 cycling clubs, 100 cycling events and 15,000 bike stores.
“The size of the Chinese cycling sports market has grown to $1.5 billion with the industry expecting to reach a growth rate of 20% by 2023.”
The men’s race is due to run through October 23, but it could move ahead one week so the WorldTour season ends sooner. In addition, the Guangxi will host the UCI’s end of season gala. The Abu Dhabi Tour welcomed the gala for the last two years, but in 2017, it will take a new calendar date in February.