The 3rd editon of the Colourful Yunnan Granfondo Cycling Festival begins tomorrow in provincial capital Kunming for another week-long and 5-stage cycling journey through Yunnan's most precious tourism areas. Almost 1400 riders will take part in the event: a new record.
Not only can the event sport a new record number in participants, but also the quality of riders is higher than ever. The man and woman who wins this year's edition will have beaten a long list of known and strong riders. In fact, last year's champion, Myagmarsuren Baasankhuu, is back to defend his title. Now riding for the strong Chinese team Rion, "Miga" as he is commonly called, has had a great season by winning the Mongolian National Championship last August, which gave him a ticket for the world championship in Qatar three weeks ago. Miga has also won an international MTB stage race in India and recently in Guizhou Province, and he was also third at this year's Genghis Khan MTB, being outplayed by his the teammates Sainbayar Jambaljamts and Tugulduur Tuulkhangai. The latter Mongolian, is a big rival for the victory in Yunnan this year again. Tugu was second in the Granfondo Yanbian four weeks ago, and is always in good shape. Of course, Tugu also won two stages here in Kunming and Yuxi last season. In his Team RTS-Monton, he will have a co-leader in 18-year-old raw talent Tegshbayar Batsaikhan, the junior world champion points race on the track.
As the Mongolians now are split up in a few different teams, it may be harder for them to control the proceedings this week. Last year, they outgunned the local teams by being united. This year, chances for teams like Cannondale, Rion, Specialized, Serk and the local Yunnan development team are certainly on the upside. There is also a Russian team from Vladivostok with the strong rider Evgenii Vitmanovskii, as well as motivated riders from The Netherlands, France and Australia.
The women's race is more open but Mongolia's Solongo Tserenlham is one to watch. All year she has been better than ever, with race victories in Granfondo Yanbian and a hard-fought second place behind Enkhjargal Tuvshinjargal in Genghis Khan MTB. We will be wiser on the other competitors tomorrow after the Kunming stage.
Kunming is a 115 km course around the big Dianchi Lake. Elevation gain is modest, which means it is a perfect 'rolling-into-the-event' kind of race. A bunch sprint is not unlikely, even though two years ago a five-men-breakaway contested the stage victory.