This will be my third participation in the Yunnan Granfondo, a six stage road race held annually in China. With the race less than one month away, I thought I would note down my main expectations for the upcoming edition.
Expectation 1 – A Strong Field
The Colourful Yunnan International Granfondo Cycling Festival (“Yunnan Granfondo") will have approximately 1,000 riders starting the week long stage race. With such a big field, there will be riders from all levels taking on the event.
Although many riders participating in the race will have goals of just trying to finish some of the stages within the cut-off time, there will be a serious bunch of the riders in the race. These riders will distinguish themselves in the prologue and quickly form a distinct bunch out the font from the outset of the first stage.
With the addition of several well organised teams from Europe, Thailand and an expat team from Beijing, the field in 2018 was significantly stronger than 2017. In addition to this, the 2018 race also featured a more individual riders (both local and international) who were strong and performed really well. I can only expect the quality to again rise in 2019.
Despite the stronger field of riders, the dominance of the semi-professional team from Mongolia (Panda CCN) was not interrupted in 2018, again claiming the team and individual GC for a fifth consecutive year. This team will still be the favorite in 2019, however the field of riders making up the top 100 GC positions will be tough, with some of these riders really pushing the Mongolian team right to the end.
Expectation 2 – A Great Parcours
The 2017 route was good, but not ideal. Stages 1 and 2 were very flat, and stage 3 was only 20km. It wasn’t until stages 4 and 5 where the race really started to take shape.
The 2018 route was however fantastic. Mangshi was a beautiful city to start from and provided a great backdrop for the prologue that was added to the 5 road stages. The whole route included a great mix of climbs, rolling terrain and a sprint stage in Dali to accommodate riders of all types.
What made the course really enjoyable in these previous editions was the natural beauty of this region. However, it would be fair to state that starting from Mangshi did provide a more rural and picturesque setting.
The race will pass through villages, forests and farmlands, circle lakes and cross rivers. It's also really lovely to witness some of the rural areas and candid moments of its occupants going about their day in this wonderful part of the world. China itself puts on a real show of natural and cultural beauty during the race.
Expectation 3 – The “Pro” Experience
There is no other race in the world that makes you feel more like a professional cyclist than the Yunnan Granfondo.
From the opening ceremonies that take place before each stage, to crowds, dancers and musicians spread out along the route, you really get to feel like the race is a big deal and that the riders are a star attraction for the week.
Expectation 4 – Highlight of 2019
In both 2017 and 2018, the Yunnan Granfondo was the best race I participated in.
My expectations for 2019 are sky high and I am again expecting this race to be the cycling highlight of my year. This would be no mean feat, as in the search of new cycling experiences I have participated in some fantastic events, including the Tour of Phuket, the Alpen Tour and the Mongolia Bike Challenge.
Although a tall order, all the organisers need to do is to run the race with the same level of professionalism and organisation that was done in 2018. After seeing such a great improvement between 2017 and 2018, I’m all but certain this will be achieved.
Best of luck to all those racing. Fingers crossed for good fortune, good weather and a lot of fun.