The mighty Yangtze ends its 6300km journey into the East China Sea in the northern area of Shanghai, and right in the middle of its massive mouth lies a 80km-long alluvial island named Chongming, dividing the world’s third-longest river into two channels just before it meets the ocean.
The “Lofty Bright Island” has become well known to cycling fans in the last decade thanks to an important Elite Women's road race, part of the UCI Women's WorldTour since its start in 2016. The Tour of Chongming Island UCI Women’s WorldTour is one of several races organised on Chinese soil, where the sport is becoming increasingly popular.
Li Meifang and the first edition
The structure of the event has changed throughout the years, with routes covering the whole area from Shanghai to the island itself. The first edition, held in 2007, consisted of a four-stage UCI category 2.1 race preceded by a one-day time trial. Chinese rider Liu Li Yong (Giant Pro Cycling) won the short 12km challenge against the clock on 2 June, ahead of her compatriot and team-mate Li Meifang Li and Ellen van Dijk (then riding for Vrienden van het Platteland) from the Netherlands.
The next day, Van Dijk won the inaugural 65.5km criterium part of the stage race from Renshou to Yatong City after a bunch sprint, beating the Chinese Na Zhao Na (Giant Pro Cycling Team). Australian Belinda Goss won the next two stages, both times in front of the Dutch rival, taking her yellow jersey after the Chongxi and Chongbei circuits. But on the last day, the Australian National Team rider had to give up her leadership to Li Meifang who arrived solo in Chongdong after the longest stage (100km), ahead of her three compatriots, all from the JiangSu Team: Hui Sha, Tang Kerong and Chen Jing.
Li Meifang did even better the next year, winning the stage race in front of two other Chinese riders, Meng Lang and, again, Hui Sha, as well as winning the time trial race. In 2009, Australian athletes were the chief protagonists, with the yellow jersey won by Chloe Hosking ahead of the German Marlen Jöhrend and China’s Na Zhao Na, while the time trial was won by Bridie O'Donnell.
The new formula with the Tour of Chongming Island World Cup
In 2010 the race changed its structure. The organisers replaced the time trial with a one-day race called the Tour of Chongming Island World Cup - part of the former UCI Women Road World Cup for six years until 2015 - while the stage race was reduced to three days. German Champion Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, who won more than 200 races during her long and successful career, dominated for two years, winning both the competitions consecutively.
She won the stage race in 2010 from Dutch rider Kirsten Wild and Australian Rochelle Gilmore, and in 2011 from the Netherlands’ Annemiek van Vleuten and Italian Monia Baccaille. Teutenberg became the first winner of the Tour of Chongming Island World Cup in 2010 in a tough day of heavy crosswinds and torrential rain for every one of its 138.6km. The HTC-Columbia rider beat Wild again in an exciting finish with the breakaway caught by the peloton just before the finish. She repeated the feat a year later ahead of the Briton Lizzie Armitstead (now Deignan).
Australian riders won the next two editions of the stage race with Melissa Hoskins– and Annette Edmondson, while the Tour of Chongming Island World Cup went to the American Shelley Olds and Tetyana Ryabchenko from Ukraine.
The wonderful records of Wild and Wiebes
Two Dutch women have written their names in the history of this race. The first is Kirsten Wild, who had an incredible week in 2014. The Team Giant Shimano rider was in perfect shape scoring two stage wins, a second place and the general classification of the Tour, and also winning the Tour of Chongming Island World Cup. She won the Tour again in 2015, but was beaten in the sprint of the World Cup race by the Italian Giorgia Bronzini. Wild still holds the global record for Chongming races with seven stages, two Tour General Classifications and two editions of the one-day race.
The next year the event’s structure was changed again: the one-day race was removed, while the stage race joined the pretigious new UCI Women's WorldTour. Chloe Hosking claimed her second victory in 2016, beating Huang Ting Ying from Taiwan and Leah Kirchmann from Canada. In 2017 the Belgian Jolien D'Hoore triumphed over two former champions: Wild and Hosking. Then it was the turn of Germany’s Charlotte Becker to win from the Australian Shannon Malseed and Russia’s Anastasiia Iakovenko.
The 2019 edition of Tour of Chongming Island UCI Women’s WorldTour belonged to young Dutch sensation Lorena Wiebes. The talented rider – born in 1999 – was literally unbeatable, winning all three stages, and with them of course, the general classification, the points classification and the young rider classification. One month after her triumph in China, the Parkhotel Valkenburg team rider won an incredible gold medal in road cycling at the 2019 European Games from none other than her country’s most titled female rider, Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv).
Originally scheduled to take place in 2020 from 7 to 9 May, the Tour of Chongming Island UCI Women’s WorldTour has been postponed to 23-25 October in the revised 2020 UCI Women’s WorldTour Calendar revealed this week by the UCI in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.