Taipei, Feb. 27 (CNA) The Tour de Taiwan will be held March 1-5 as scheduled despite the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, featuring 17 professional teams from Taiwan and around the world, the Chinese Taipei Cycling Association announced Thursday.
Lee Kai-chih (李開志), secretary-general of the association, said the competition will consist of five stages, each taking place in different cities and counties across Taiwan.
Taiwanese Feng Chun-kai (馮俊凱) will head a team that includes Peng Yuan-tang (彭源堂), Lu Shao-hsuan (盧紹軒), Su Yu-ming (蘇宇銘) and Wu Chih-hao (吳之皓), Lee said.
Feng, a veteran cyclist, secured a spot in the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics Cycling Road Race after finishing third in the Asian Road Cycling Championships in Uzbekistan last April, which was an authorized Olympic Qualifying Race.
The last time a Taiwanese competed in the Olympics men's Road Cycling event was in 1996, when Chen Chih-hao (陳智豪) qualified.
The Taiwan team will battle it out over the 661.35-kilometer north-south route against top-tier cycling teams such as Burgos BH of Spain and Nippo Delko Provence from France, according to the association.
The first stage is an eight-lap, 83.2-km course around Taipei City, which starts at City Hall, before moving on to challenging mountain climbs in the 118.88-km second stage through the northern city of Taoyuan.
In the third stage, named Taiwan Romantic Route 3, competitors will complete a 156.5-km course along winding mountainous roads in Hsinchu, Miaoli and Taichung.
The fourth stage will be held in Pingtung County before the 128.47-km final stage in Kaohsiung, according to the association.
Hsieh Shih-ping (謝世平), the team coach, said he is hopeful the team will perform well this year, adding that their team goal is to finish in the top five.
Lu, who wore the blue jersey after taking the Taipei stage in the 2019 Tour de Taiwan, said he hopes to keep the championship trophy in Taiwan this year.
The Tour de Taiwan is an annual road race that is part of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Asia Tour. It was classed as a 2.1 category race for the first time in 2012.