BEIJING — In a country once called "the kingdom of bicycles," David Zabriskie and Levi Leipheimer have quite a route to see the sights of Beijing, capital city of the People's Republic of China.

If they lift up their head for a look.

The two United States cyclists with Utah ties — Zabriskie a Salt Lake City resident and Leipheimer a former student at Rowland Hall-St. Mark's — will compete in Saturday's men's road race event, certainly with their heads down and focused on the task at hand, rather than gawking at Beijing's famous tourist sites.

And, for the first time in Olympics history, the finish line will not be at the same place as the starting line. Instead, Saturday's route will cover 78.9 kilometers through and beyond Beijing, followed by seven laps for the men by the finish area.

The start and finish areas carry great historical significances for the Chinese.

Yongdingmen Gate, site of the race's mass start, is the largest of Beijing's seven outer-city gates and dates back to the Ming Dynasty during the mid-16th century. Its name means "keeping peace forever" — and the gate's construction lasted almost as long, needing 215 years to finish.

The finish is at Juyongguan Pass, located in the Ming tombs region and significant for its strategic location — in fact, it's labeled by the Chinese as "the most Significant Pass in China."

At the center of the pass is a carved marble formation called "Cloud Platform," with the arched gateway underneath decorated with carvings of Buddha and Buddhist text is a half-dozen different languages.

And in between the two points, with route highlights including the Temple of Heaven, the Great Hall of the People, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the National Stadium and in the shadow of the Juyongguan and Badaling segments of the Great Wall.


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