Germany’s Tony Martin will be seeking his third straight Tour of Beijing title when the event starts on Friday, with newly crowned Portuguese world champion Rui Costa among his chief competitors.

Yet a day ahead of the 190.5-kilometre (118-mile) opening stage, the time trial specialist sounded less than confident when discussing the route, citing the lack of his signature event and several uphill finishes.

“To be honest the parcours this year is not really for me,” said Martin, who just weeks ago won his third straight title in the individual time trial at the road cycling world championships.

Costa, who won the road race at the worlds, couldn’t have sounded more different, saying he looked forward to adding to the best season of his career.

“It’s a race that I know and like. I got within the best 10 overall last year and I hope to profit from my good form at this time of the year,” said the 26-year-old, who has won three stages at the Tour de France, one in 2011 and two this year, and also won the Tour de Suisse this year and last.

The five-day competition will also be the first stage race at which Costa will don the rainbow jersey he earned at the worlds.

“That makes it even more important for me,” said Costa, who was ninth overall in Beijing last year, a minute behind Martin.

The winner of the first two editions of the Tour of Beijing, Martin has won nine of 12 individual time trials this year, including one at the Tour de France. The 28-year-old also powered Omega Pharma-Quick Step to a title defense in the team time trial at worlds.

Martin is joined by teammate Zdenek Stybar of the Czech Republic, a two-time world cyclo-cross champion who has switched to road racing.

Other leading riders taking part are Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Dan Martin of Garmin Sharp and Criterium du Dauphine victor Richie Porte of Team Sky, ranked No. 8 and No. 9 respectively in the UCI WorldTour rankings. The pair are the only top-10 ranked riders taking part in this year’s tour.

The opening stage runs through the flat country northeast of Beijing from the Shunyi Olympic Rowing Park to the Huairou Studio City.

This year’s Tour of Beijing is about 250 kilometres (155 miles) longer than last year’s race.

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