It's been just over a month since my return and it's taken me that long to put my thoughts together and get this written up. Typical procrastination when it comes to writing on my behalf.
Anyway, so I got an invitation to attend the 2017 Qiansen UCI Cyclocross in Beijing as Manager/Mechanic. Brendon Sharratt and Sam Gardner are the riders. I've known Brendon for some time now and I build all his race wheels. I met Sam at the 2016 NZ Cyclocross championship where he finished a close second to Brendon who took the crown.
I was a little apprehensive at first when invited but Angela said I've got to take the opportunity and I'm glad I did!
After a long trip from Paraparaumu via Auckland and Hong Kong we finally arrived in Beijing on Friday 1st September. Beijing is a huge region with over 20 million in population.
From the airport we took a bus to Fengtai (a suburb of Beijing) to the Riverside Hotel. We unpacked all the bikes and off we went to do a recce of the course. What was supposed to be a quick pedal down the road turned into a couple of hours of sight seeing in the back streets of Fengtai as we got totally lost and up ended cycling around trying to find said course! We did eventually find it and we had been riding all around the outside of it!
So my first proper ride on a cyclocross bike and I'm hitting up a pro circuit! Absolutely loved it! So much fun - I'm a convert. After Brendon and Sam did a few laps we headed back for the hotel where I ironed out any niggles on the bikes.
Saturday and we're up early for breakfast and then straight down to the course now that we've figured out how to find it. A few more laps and back for the welcome banquet.
The welcome banquet was errrrr..interesting. Plate after plate of mostly unrecognizable food that just kept coming.
We had to turn away food in the end as we just couldn't eat it fast enough! The fact that more than half the table didn't touch a thing wasn't helping matters. Myself, Brendon and Sam did our bit though to clear the table, especially Sam who I think saw it as a personal mission! But the three of us where no match for the never ending piles of food.
Next came the entertainment which apparently was one of China most popular acts. Hmmm I think someone forgot to tell this guy it's 2017 (see video if your dare) So the banquet wrapped up at 21.00 and it's back on the bus for an early, tomorrow is race day!
Sunday and it's rise and shine, big breakfast for the long day ahead. I load up the bikes and tools etc onto the bus and head for the course.I find our team tent and set up and then go to check out the pit area and decide on our strategy.
Due to the absence of UCI points in NZ Brendon and Sam get put in a lottery for grid position behind ranked riders, Sam gets 46 and Brendon 54. Not great positions but as it turned out for Brendon at least not too bad. A big pile up in the first corner saw Brendon slingshot it around the outside to move up a dozen places then work up to finish a decent 28th. Sam wasn't so fortunate but still made up places in a very tough race to finish 42nd.
Most of the field in front are Pro riders with everything on hand so a fantastic effort by our lads. We now have to pack the bikes again for the bus trip to Yanqing tomorrow.
So it's Monday 4th and we arrive in Yanqing at the Zhongyin Hotel and unpack and assemble the bikes again. After some hard racing I give the bikes a full going over and replace a few bits and pieces so they're humming for the next race.
By this stage I've been adopted by the Kleur Op Maat BNS Technics cycle team from Belgium so I have tripled my work load! Ceylin Alvarado won the Elite womans race last year so I'm pretty stoked to be working on another top riders bike.
We head for the next course for another recce mission and this time we decide to follow someone that knows where they're going! The course is fantastic. Super fast and flowy. I really like it and do a few laps myself. It's very bumpy in places and a little sketchy when you shoot down the dirt descents and hit the paved area and there's no let up just go,go,go.
So once the lads are happy we head back for some tuning and dinner.
Tuesday 5th and we're off to see the Great Wall of China. Wow! pretty amazing, almost 9000km long and built over 22 centuries! I walked up to one of the turrets at 888m elevation and could see the wall snaking across the hills for miles.
Luckily too was the fact that it was the clearest day so far and the views where beautiful. Beijing so far had been blanketed in a thick haze which makes seeing anything more than a couple of km's away impossible.
Wednesday 6th and it's race day! It's very hot and dry and all the talk is about tyre pressures and the first stair climb. Once again the lads started from the back of the grid so it was always going to be a tough race! Brendon got off to a great start and within a couple of laps was mid pack, he continued to make up places and got into a fast moving bunch and up to 20th! Bombing a descent and hitting the pavement section hard put paid to his race when sadly the chain snapped, an awesome effort cut short.
All in all it was a fantastic trip. A very well organised event that was possible thanks to a very passionate CEO of Qiansen Group Lishan Song. We met some wonderful people from all over the world and got a taste of pro cycling. See you next year Beijing!