The latest diplomatic row between China and Japan has spilled over into the world of professional cycling.
Dutch Pro Continental squad Argos-Shimano has withdrawn from October’s Tour of Beijing. Shimano, the team’s component sponsor, is based in Sakai, Japan.
According to a press release from race organizers, “Global Cycling Promotion and the local organizing committee of the Tour of Beijing discussed with Team Argos-Shimano the option of not participating in the Tour of Beijing. Due to the current circumstances, the team accepted to withdraw from the race.”
At least one Argos rider appears at least partially relieved to miss the trip to Beijing. Sprinter Marcel Kittel wrote on Twitter:
Last WorldTour race cancelled for us… Don’t know what I should think about it. I’ll finish my season now in Putte-Kapellen. #nosmog
China and Japan are currently embroiled in a dispute over a chain of islands in the East China Sea. Japan has planned to purchase the Denkaku Islands, known in China as the Diaoyu Islands, a move starkly at odds with China’s recent naval expansion in the region. Although the five islands, three of which may soon become nationalized as Japanese territory, are uninhabited, they have been the site of various run-ins between the fishing fleets and coast guards of each nation.
Organizers claim that none of the 18 first division teams automatically invited to the Tour of Beijing are impacted, though a source close to the situation tells VeloNews that ProTeams Garmin-Sharp and RadioShack-Nissan may also be somehow affected by the situation. Sharp, an electronics manufacturer, is headquartered in Abeno-ku, Osaka, and the Nissan Motor Company calls Nishi-ku, Yokahama, its home.
ProTeams are required to attend all 29 races on the WorldTour calendar and cannot be excluded from those events. When contacted by VeloNews on Tuesday, Garmin boss Jonathan Vaughters said he did not expect the situation to impact his team.
“I haven’t heard this from anyone,” Vaughters told VeloNews.
In Wednesday’s release, Alain Rumpf, director of race promoter Global Cycling Promotion, said that organizers were closely monitoring the political situation and its further impacts on the event, which is scheduled for its second running October 9-13.
Missing the season’s final WorldTour event does hamper Argos’ efforts to rise from the Pro Continental ranks. ProTeam licenses for squads including Ag2r La Mondiale, Euskaltel-Euskadi and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank are up for renewal. Kittel would have entered the race a favorite for multiple stage wins and with valuable points on the line in Beijing, Argos will hope that it does not miss an opportunity to cement its place within the sport’s top 18 squads.