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1 October 2015 No comments

Racing Cross in China: Part 1

Correspondence Friends Sports Cycling Monthly highlights
By Angus Edmond
Racing Cross in China: Part 1

An all expenses paid trip to China is hard to say no to. This would be the 2nd time that I had been unable to say no to the Qiansen Trophy, though this trip would be without my faithful mechanic Anders. As nice as a free trip is, I did find myself asking what I was doing already in Dubai. I had just another 9 hours of flying ahead of me. People would ask me about my trip when I got home and to be honest it was mixed. Chinese culture can be pretty full on and flying doesn't bring out the best in anyone. So boarding the flight to Beijing I was already taking a deep breath. I was woken by fireworks the first morning at some time early, not sure when it was but it was about an hour or so before I had planned to get up. Unfortunately more sleep didn't follow. I had chosen to skip the Great Wall visit scheduled for that day and address a couple of more pressing problems I had. The first being that I had to find a replacement derailleur hanger and the second was that they had confiscated my tubular glue at the airport in Copenhagen and I needed to find a way to glue my tyres on. Both of these things actually went rather smoothly. Contact adhesive was found at Walmart and the first bike shop I found had a hanger that I could modify (with the help of a hacksaw purchased along with the glue). Proud of myself for having overcome this initial adversity I then discovered an end cap missing from my rear hub. There was no 'fix' for this one other than going on a rear wheel scrounge. Apparently I was not the only one encountering problems and there quickly arose a small market for swapping spares and tools. The phrase 'this is one of the cool things about cyclocross' started getting thrown around a lot at this stage. People were right in many ways, and having never raced in the States I can't comment on their scene, but for me it was much more a case of 'this is what racing cyclocross in China is like'. This was highlighted by BKCP offering to loan a bike to Margriet Kloppenburg, after hers was lost in transit and having to later retract that offer after consulting with the bosses back in Belgium. Things are different in Europe. But not to worry, others stepped up to the plate and the problem was quickly solved. Bikes were found, lent, and I even had a couple of options open to me. In the end borrowed a wheel from a rider, Dani Arman, that having parked her bike in a road barrier had cracked the top tube straight through. She had a wheel she wasn't going to be using. Her saviour being a bike donated from the sponsors Giant for use during the two races. All in all a way was always found and everybody made it to the start line. Maybe I will catch the Great Wall again next year. [caption id="attachment_15417" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="It won't be going anywhere"][/caption] There was a good Kiwi contingent again this year, Ricoh, Patrick, Matt, Nat, and Kieran. Eyes wide open at the prospect of racing at this level. It was great fun to have them along and I was stoked to get to meet them all. The same can be said of many of the people I have met on this trip, I have laughed so hard so many times, it would be difficult when it was time to once again scatter to the four corners. The race course was identical to last year, with the exception of a few more bumps and rocks. It is ok, but it could do with a little work to be worthy of the level of racing it facilitates. From my perspective it just felt nice to be able to ride it and hold the handlebars properly at the same time (my arm was freshly out of cast this time last year). I felt good going into it and and once the gun actually went off I proceeded to have one of my best races yet. The start was crap, but that was partly due to poor choice by me on the grid. When you are second row then your fate is partly linked to he rider in front of you (yes Lucas, I am looking at you). I found a speed I could hold after a couple of laps and pushed on at that for the remainder of the race. Slowly picking up one place after another, ending finally on Emil Hekele'a back wheel, a rider I seldom get so close to. Had it not been for a small mistake on one of the last turns I might have had him, but now we will never know. I finished in 16th, my best result in a C1 to date, but I guess that is one of the joys of racing outside of Belgium. [caption id="attachment_15411" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Looking sharp on the grid with princess socks from dirtysox.ch"][/caption] One of the things I like about the Qiansen Trophy is the riders that it attracts. Here you can find everything from riders without UCI points that have never raced at this level before to national champions and world champion hopefuls. In my opinion it is the predominance of the former that creates the unique atmosphere that you find here. Riders who love the sport but don't necessarily see themselves on a career path. The end result being a group of people that are open, fun loving, and looking forward to that post race malty beverage as much as me. As a side note my ability to ensure my team mates were provided with the correct post race refreshments could see me moving to a managerial roll in the future. The evening finished with a banquet, the emptying of all the cold beer from all the small stores in the neighbourhood, and the coining of the hashtag #whoinvitedthefrench. [caption id="attachment_15418" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="I swear to god I have no idea where all these people came from!"][/caption] My shuttle to the airport left at 0500 the next day. It was a long day travelling. I was fortunate enough to spend it in the company of the Jakroo team. Discovering the most amazing Starbucks ever and eating at Burger King, breaking a 15yr drought. Our end destination was the island of Hainan, a little tropical paradise in southern China. I think we made it to our hotel resort around 1800 that evening. The fact that they served beer at dinner made me forget all about how long it had been though...