Tomorrow, the 21st of September, the city of Bejing will host the first ever UCI cyclocross race on Chinese soil. Subaru-MarathonMTB.com rider Roeland Suys joined the Aussies and Kiwis that made the long trip to the 2013 “Qiansen Trophy” UCI Cyclocross Event.
Representing Australia are some riders that have made a name for themselves on the mountain bike and over the last few years took up cx.
In the women’s field there’s newly crowned Aussie champion Lisa Jacobs (Apollo Race Team) together with Katherine O’Shea, Sarah Holmes (TORQ Nutrition) and Jenny MacPherson (Stay True Racing).
In the men’s field there’s John Groves (Apollo Race Team) and for Giant Bicycles Australia Lewis Rattray and the Cross Country Eliminator World Champion Paul Van Der Ploeg.
Racing in the New Zealand colours are Alexander Revell and Jenna Makgill (Red Bull / Liv Giant).
When asked Apollo Race Team rider John Grover about his expectations, his plan is to get in the slipstream of bulldozer Paul VDP and hold on for as long as possible. It’s John’s second cyclo cross season so he hopes to finish between all the European pro riders. John is a fan of the course, compared to the Aussie cx courses where most obstacles are man-made, the course in Bejing is very technical with the repetitive short shoots.
For Katherine O’Shea it’s only her sixth cyclo cross race. Being a mountainbiker, she’s happy that there’s no running sections in the course. She found the many steep little pinches very testing and is happy to be racing overseas again after taking a year off due to her job. Being unsure what to expect for herself, she has high expectancy for her team mate Sarah Holmes. Sarah is thinking about heading over to the US later on in the year and hopefully win enough UCI points to qualify for the world championship in Hoogerheide.
A total of 63 riders in the men’s category and 22 in the woman’s will be competing for a historical win. Favourites are the riders from the Belgian pro cx teams with Arnaud Jouffroy being the biggest name on the start list.
In a country with very little bike racing history, it will be interesting to see how the organisation will deal with an international cyclo cross event. Coordinating the event for the UCI is Belgian former professional rider Peter Van Den Abbeele. Almost a year ago he showed the race organisers around at a World Cup in Belgium and now he’s making sure this event will run smoothly on the other side of the world. China seems to be making pretty big inroads in the global cycling scene, with the Tour of Beijing now part of the World Tour and this Cyclocross event, whilst not quite on the same scale, has some pretty strong funding behind it and a strong field of international riders. There will be live streaming during the event so tune in at this website .
On Thursday morning, the organisers took all the riders on a sightseeing trip to the Great Wall. Since we’re staying a fair way out of Bejing it was nice to see a bit of ancient Chinese culture. In the early afternoon, the course was open for the first official training. After a week of morning showers, the clay-like soil on the course made for a very slippery ride. About ten riders went down on a corner about 1km in on the 3.5km long course. No damage done, just a few broken egos. Less lucky were two of the Belgian riders with one of them rolling a tubular on the front and another breaking his Ridley frame in half after riding through a puddle of mud with a tree trunk hidden below the surface.
The course is 3.5km long with a combination of steep drops, slippery climbs and a few bridges. It is situated along a narrow river about one hour out of Bejing. Since thursday morning, the sky has cleared and temperatures have risen to around 30 degrees. If the weather stays like this, the course should dry out and the racing will be lightning fast.