Wheels in motion for Le Tour’s return

Zhou Qi

Amateur and professional cyclists are gearing up for the return of the Tour de France to China.

The 2018 edition of Le Tour de France Events will be comprised of a number of etapes (stages) for amateurs – one of which is confirmed for Sept 23 in Beijing – and a Criterium for pros on Nov 17 in Shanghai.

First organized in 1903, the Tour de France is cycling’s biggest and most famous road race, and since last year organizers have teamed with the Activation Group to bring a flavor of the event to China.

About 3,900 amateurs took to the roads in the Wangcheng district of Changsha, Hunan province, for last year’s sole stage to make it the nation’s largest ever cycling event, while over 50,000 spectators turned out to watch top pros like reigning Tour champion Chris Froome in the Criterium in Shanghai.

“The 2017 Le Tour de France was very successful and exceeded our expectations,” said Zhou Qi, Activation Group’s sport manager.

“People can get close to and interact with some of the world’s top cyclists and champions, while the event also increased the public’s passion for cycling.”

This year’s extravaganza promises to be bigger and better in a number of ways.

As well as the Beijing date, a Hainan stage is being planned, with more locations to be announced, according to Zhou.

A new Club de L’Etape China (CLC) system, which awards riders points, a ranking and various benefits, is also being introduced.

Meanwhile, plans are afoot to build a new Le Tour de France sports park in Shanghai, featuring professional bike tracks that copy road conditions from abroad, and cycling-themed cafes.

“Our mission is not only to introduce the Le Tour de France brand to the nation, but to promote cycling culture as a whole,” Zhou said.