Because I am so behind in my blogging I never got the chance to say that I was going to China. Bender and I got invited to come on an all expenses paid trip to race the Qiansen Trophy C1 cyclocross race, in Yanqing, just outside of Beijing. I managed to break my arm 3 weeks before our flight left and almost ruined it, but thanks to a little luck I had my cast removed the day before we left and it all worked out. Well almost all. I was naive enough to think that after not having moved my arm in 3 weeks I would be able to do things like go swimming the day I got the cast off. In fact the first few days of having no cast was worse than having one on. If it had not been for Emma’s help with my apartment I never would have made it out the door to the airport in time. The other challenge was that Niner had been short changed on build kits for their new BSB frames (another detail, I am now riding for Niner) and I had to order all the parts for an Ultegra Di2 build from 3 different distributors, borrow wheels from my boss, and first build the bike once we got to China. No worries.
Once we landed in Beijing we were picked up at the airport and transported to the hotel we would be spending the next few days in. It was in Yanqing, 2hrs from the airport, just a 10 min ride to the mountains and 25km from the Great Wall.
One of the things I loved the most about the coming week was not so much what happened but who it happened with. Elite sport can be pretty snobby and there is not much mingling that goes on at events, but luckily here we had a much more mixed bunch than the usual faces that crowd the podium. Many of them had not seen a race of a higher level than a C1 and thankfully few objected to a beer or wine with dinner which made for some good nights over the next week.
The course was a 10min ride from the hotel (a bit longer if you are Swiss and like riding into road barriers) and was in the middle of what is to be a pretty amazing bike park and recreation area. It was fast and bumpy, which my newly freed arm just loved. Over the course of the next three days I only rode one lap each day. It was too painful to do more. I concentrated on seeing the surrounding areas by bike and doing a little shopping with Bender. The countryside was spectacular but unfortunately riding into the hills does not provide you quite with the view that you expect.
The organizers were kind enough to arrange a little culture for us, the day before the race, in the form of a trip to the Great Wall. I of course had to see how far I could get in the time that we had while making the climbs up, some of the insanely steep slopes that the Wall went over, look like child’s play for the suffering Chinese tourists.
Race day. It was nice gutting to go through the motions of doing a race but not really having to care about it. My plan was to do a lap and then pull out. I was certain the pain would make it unbearable to do more than that and I wasn’t in the mood for DFL.
Of course once my pulse got up and I found that I wasn’t in last place by the end of the first lap my dignity wouldn’t allow me to just pull out so I kept going. Slowly one lap became two and then three and so on. I actually started to gain places rather than lose them. This did lead me to wonder what the people I was passing were even doing there, but hey.
In the end an ok 45th out of 61, time to celebrate with a little rice wine liquor :)
When not racing, then there must be shopping to be done!
Aside from the cross race we were also invited to ‘lead’ an amateur race in a city about a 5 hour drive from where we were currently staying. The bus drive was long but thankfully not uneventful. Chinese motorways will keep you on your toes, and if they don’t succeeding that then the bus driver passing cars using the emergency lane on the far right while doing about 125km/h certainly will.
Awaiting us was a 5 star hotel!!!
This place left pretty much everyone wandering around with eyes like saucers :) Oh the buffet!! But we had business to get on with…
The road race was pretty interesting. It was an unlicensed race (which I had kinda sworn off) that we were to just supposed join in on.
It was only 60km, where the first 50 were on a 3 lane motorway that was closed down for our benefit. I had no idea how I did (there were no results for us) but it was an experience getting to have that much road to ourselves, and boy do the Chinese like to attack, they just aren’t very good at following up on it. It was a bit like a criterium, just in a straight line.
This marked the end of our trip. Well not quite, we had one more dinner, more rice wine liquor.
This time ending in a night in Beijing with the Swiss that I don’t quite remember and Bender and I spending the entire of our last day in China sleeping it off.
Don’t worry, we totally plan on having another crack at it next year, though maybe with the omission of the last night…