Riding in China, why not?

Riding in China, why not?

Guest Article: Fondo Reaches Middle Kingdom

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The Tour of Beijing may no longer be, but Cycling in China continues to grow. DJC Media’s Daniel Carruthers is helping push the development and sent us this report of the recent Gran Fondo in Yunnan.

The Fondo fever is slowly taking a grip of the world’s most populous nation, the Red Kingdom of China; there is a massive leisure revolution happening now as a result of the burgeoning huge middle-class population which has propelled China to become the number one globally economy. More Chinese are taking up cycling as a new leisure pursuit and it won’t be long before the Gran Fondo phenomenon explodes. The Chinese have created a new word in Mandarin – and that is “Gelanfeng Du” or “格朗风度”. It is a direct adaption of the Italian word.

Nordic Ways (http://www.nordicways.com) a Swedish sports events company based in Beijing, has been a key driver behind promoting the concept of the Gran Fondo in China. They have secured the licensing of the name ‘gran fondo’ and have created the website – www.granfondochina.com to push their Gran Fondo events. The first ever Gran Fondo was held in 2012 in Yanbian, skirting the borders of North Korea and it was considered a successful event and a step in the right direction despite the challenges with the government and traffic control understanding the concept.

Fast forward to April 2014, another events company in Shanghai, SCP, held the second Gran Fondo in Yellow Mountain, a popular Chinese tourist destination and well-known location where Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon scenes were shot. The SCP Gran Fondo was held on fantastically beautiful quiet country roads and had the makings for a hugely popular Gran Fondo, however they were fraught with challenges and the local government cut the second stage short due to “safety” reasons; there is a fear that amateur riders cannot cope with ‘dangerous’ descents in races so therefore the final 20km of stage two was eliminated and turned into a mountain top finish instead of the planned city finish. It is not yet known if the event will continue in 2015 as the event has been taken over by the government. If it is to continue, it will be a highly recommended event to fly to China for. 2014 information can be found here:: http://scpgranfondo.shrace.net/en/

Late in 2014 was a breakthrough for the concept of Gran Fondo in China when Nordic Ways, in conjunction with Kuaisports.com, successfully pulled off a weeklong Gran Fondo event in Yunnan. It really shattered the misconceptions that amateurs cannot compete in long-distances and for once, competitors were allowed to complete the full-distances daily within generous time-limits and full road-closure. The inaugural Colorful Yunnan Gran Fondo (http://www.granfondochina.com) was organized in conjunction with the local governments with the idea to promote the stunning diverse region of Yunnan as a tourist destination especially for cyclists. More than 1,000 participants took part in the weeklong event in both long and short course categories. The longest stage was the 180km jaunt around the wind-swept Yuxi Lake that completely shattered the field. More than 300 competitors completed the full five stages and were awarded a GC ranking. Yes, there quite some substantial prize money to be won at this Gran Fondo stage race and can potentially help pay for your trip over.

Dutch rider, Lars Van de Vail who won the opening prologue time trial in the Tour of Qatar in December 2013, was quite surprised at the level of Chinese riders especially the young 16-year old riders from the Yunnan Sports Development team. Van de Vail posted a highly respectable 23km mountain time-trial time of 47 minutes, but the young 16-year-old sensation, Lv Xianjing won with 44 minutes – more than three minutes clear of the Dutch professional. Lv Xianjing hails from the high mountains of Yunnan and has never heard of the Tour de France, yet he maybe China’s brightest rising star and a potential future Tour de France rider. Xianjing also won the final stage, trouncing all of his rivals on the final 12km climb up Jade Mountain. When the pressure was on, he just danced on the pedals in a massive gear and powered away from the front of the race. If this kind of talent can be harnessed correctly over the next few years, then he could emerge as China’s best ever cycling prospect.

The Colorful Yunnan Gran Fondo traverses through the region culminating in Lijiang, a picturesque city at 2,400m with Jade Mountain reaching out into the sky as the main feature. The final stage of the Gran Fondo was a shorter one, at 82km, but still packed in plenty of climbing and technical riding over narrow twisting roads through old villages and temples. The majestic Jade Mountain was forever seared on the memories of the riders as they gasped their way up the final ascent, reaching more than 3,000m. It was the highlight of the week and it is envisaged more stages or at least a longer stage will be held in the Lijiang region.

To read more about the Colorful Yunnan Gran Fondo, you can check out the detailed daily race reports over at www.Saddledrunk.com or visit the official website – www.granfondochina.com.

Remember, although it is a stage race with a GC ranking, there is no neutral support, thus it is important to observe Rule #83 – Be Self-sufficient! Don’t be caught out with a puncture like I suffered on Stage 4 in Dali. I was seventh overall on the GC and was poised to move up, when I suffered a snake-bite and did not have a pump or inner-tube with me. Normally, I attend races that have neutral support so I miserably learned a hard lesson and saw my high GC hopes disappear into the dust. In fact, all Gran Fondo’s are run according to the Rule #83 from Velominati. One-day event that is acceptable but when it is a five-stage race with a GC ranking, one might think that a neutral support vehicle would be following the race; but no. So remember the Rule #83 – Be self-sufficient for this race.

The Gran Fondo concept is still in its infancy in China, but it is catching on and you can be assured to see more of these types of events in China over the next few years. The Colorful Yunnan Gran Fondo will be back this November 2015 bigger and better than the first edition. If you have not been to China yet, then this event is your perfect excuse to add the Middle Kingdom to your 2015 bucket-list. If you have previously cycled or raced in China, then this event has become an essential part of the race calendar.

For more information, visit www.granfondochina.com

  1. Rule #83 //
    Be self-sufficient.

    Unless you are followed by a team car, you will repair your own punctures. You will do so expediently, employing your own skills, using your own equipment, and without complaining that your expensive tyres are too tight for your puny thumbs to fit over your expensive rim. The fate of a rider who has failed to equip himself pursuant to Rule 31, or who knows not how to use said equipment, shall be determined at the discretion of any accompanying or approaching rider in accordance with Rule 84.17

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// Guest Article

  1. There must be so many stunning places to ride that articles like this show we have only scratched the surface of possibility.

  2. Lv Xianjing won with 44 minutes – more than three minutes clear of the Dutch professional.

    Wow. But not wow in a good way :(

  3. @The Grande Fondue

    Lv Xianjing won with 44 minutes – more than three minutes clear of the Dutch professional.

    Wow. But not wow in a good way :(

    Kind of has me thinking of the Chinese women’s running team in the early 90’s that completely demolished some records then quickly disbanded, leaving nothing but questions in their wake …

  4. @GogglesPizano

    @The Grande Fondue

    Lv Xianjing won with 44 minutes – more than three minutes clear of the Dutch professional.

    Wow. But not wow in a good way :(

    Kind of has me thinking of the Chinese women’s running team in the early 90’s that completely demolished some records then quickly disbanded, leaving nothing but questions in their wake …

    ….and talking of wakes………and their swimming team.

  5. Sounds like an interesting scene, and probably similar to what we face in the Middle East.

    Quite a bit of interest but somewhat patchy organisation in the face of various bodies who just don’t quite get it.

    I wonder what sort of support is given to foreign riders and teams for transport, accommodation etc.

    On the doping issue, it certainly isn’t just a Chinese thing in cycling. I think many would be shocked at the stuff that goes on at gran fondo and even amateur category level.

    There is a big gran fondo circuit in Europe and a load of the guys getting top results are on the juice because they know the chances of testing are minimal and they don’t have to be on the bio-passport or whereabouts programs.

    One guy came out for the annual sportive a few months ago (I hesitate to call a flat 92km circuit a gran fondo) and was openly telling people he was charged. At first they thought it was a joke but then realised he was the brother of former pro rider, now in management, who had admitted doping throughout his career.

    In my view this is the biggest problem cycling has with doping. There is a whole layer of riders who are coming up in competition with doped riders and wondering why they aren’t getting results, or who have been doping at that level and are then not able to make the transition to higher levels and teams where they are under more scrutiny. Look up Jonathan Tiernan-Locke as a possible example.

  6. @GogglesPizano

    @The Grande Fondue

    Lv Xianjing won with 44 minutes – more than three minutes clear of the Dutch professional.

    Wow. But not wow in a good way :(

    Kind of has me thinking of the Chinese women’s running team in the early 90’s that completely demolished some records then quickly disbanded, leaving nothing but questions in their wake …

    They never demolished the records, just the track they were set on (!!)

    See http://www.alltime-athletics.com/w_3000ok.htm – 10 out of the best 15 all-time times were set in 1993, at the same event (heats and final).

    The track was demolished, and no video footage exists. It was only last year anyone got within 15 seconds of the best time.

    And yeah, the swimming was bad too.

  7. Kind of has me thinking of the Chinese women’s running team in the early 90’s that completely demolished some records then quickly disbanded, leaving nothing but questions in their wake …

    They never demolished the records, just the track they were set on (!!)

    Err. I totally misread that comment didn’t I? I think we are in violent agreement.

  8. One more thought… it must be odd in a country like China for cycling to move from being a mainstay of commuting and transport to a sport for leisure and competition.

    I wonder what all those people riding two-wheeled draught-horses because that’s the only way they are going to get anywhere think about people going around on carbon-fibre thoroughbreds just for fun.

  9. You gotta be f****ing kidding me if anyone thinks I’d have any interest in riding a bike in mainland China. I was in a back seat of car and guessing that lanes and signals may only have been suggestions for our driver let alone flat out ignored. It was raining hard and the driver all but looked to have zero recognition of buzzing and splashing the majority of people riding their “draught horses” as @ChrisO says… often with two aboard. And the only time I saw sunshine was on the air flights from city to city after getting above the haze. Let’s get our heart rates pumping in that filth hey? I’d describe pedestrians and cyclists as simply obstacles and inconveniences for drivers in China. And that’s in both city and countryside. Life is short w/plenty of bucket list places to ride, and no point in increasing the odds of making it shorter by riding your bike for fun in China. Ironic given that there’s probably more people on bikes, and more bikes made here, than any other country in world. But no thanks…

  10. Forget the fondos, we need to get The Rules (the book) translated into chinese and sell a few million copies. Much would be lost in translation.

    @wilburrox

    I know a friend who was in a major car accident being driven to the airport in China, yeah, a free for all. Maybe only the sanctioned, closed road riding would be safe. Or get out in the country where no one has a car, but the espresso would be rubbish.

    I need to get to Italy with my bike first.

  11. @Gianni

    Yes to Italy. Get there with no.1 — somehow. The 98th Giro d’Italia!

  12. Very off-topic, but I just wanted to draw the Velominati’s attention to this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30838464.

    Three words: So. Friggin’. Pro.

    (I especially like the bit about their captain doing 160km per day with over 150 kg of luggage).

  13. @Julez

    Very off-topic, but I just wanted to draw the Velominati’s attention to this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30838464.

    Three words: So. Friggin’. Pro.

    (I especially like the bit about their captain doing 160km per day with over 150 kg of luggage).

    This is awesome! For those who haven’t read:

    When Burundi’s cycling team took part in an international race in November, they had to rely on donations for their bikes and kits. And when it came to getting to the competition, held in another country, there was only one way they could afford to travel. [….]

    But there’s only one item on the agenda – how they are going to get home from Kigali to Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital. They cycled all the way here for the race – are they really going to have to pedal almost 200 miles home after the event as well?

  14. @Julez

    Very off-topic, but I just wanted to draw the Velominati’s attention to this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30838464.

    Three words: So. Friggin’. Pro.

    (I especially like the bit about their captain doing 160km per day with over 150 kg of luggage).

    That’s some serious Rule #5 right there. V riders, natch (numerically and figuratively).

  15. @Gianni

    Forget the fondos, we need to get The Rules (the book) translated into chinese and sell a few million copies. Much would be lost in translation.

    Particularly Rule #27 with regards sock length. Some dodgy socks in the pics. But definitely somewhere I would love to ride.

  16. @Julez

    Very off-topic, but I just wanted to draw the Velominati’s attention to this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30838464.

    Three words: So. Friggin’. Pro.

    (I especially like the bit about their captain doing 160km per day with over 150 kg of luggage).

    Hats off to them, pulling that sort of mileage as well as holding down jobs as well. True dedication to the cause.

  17. Uh oh, shoulda had a frame pump mounted for the Fondo…

    I’ll show up to smallish group rides and guys will be without anything to repair a flat. I don’t know if they are planning on me handing them my tube and CO2 if they puncture, but I think it’s poor form to rely on others and/or compromise the group ride for the sake of empty pockets.

    ChrisO – are you saying Tiernan-Locke was able to get away with doping at lower levels, but got nabbed once riding for Sky with tougher testing? That dude made some pretty strong comments after he was caught.

  18. @Ron

    ChrisO – are you saying Tiernan-Locke was able to get away with doping at lower levels, but got nabbed once riding for Sky with tougher testing? That dude made some pretty strong comments after he was caught.

    Busted doper denies everything – there’s something you don’t see every day.

    He put in some extra- strong performances riding for lower-level teams, never quite made it to the expected level with Sky and then got pinged on the blood passport once he was on it.

    So I’m saying it looks that way, prima facie. Only JTL knows for sure.

    But I also suspect it explains a few other young hot shots who don’t break through as their talent and results indicate. It’s harder to be specific though because there are so many other reasons people never make the jump and to be fair the main one is probably attitude or mindset.

  19. Gotcha! It’s always fun when the athlete comes up with a really creative reason for being nabbed or for taking the drug or where they were instead of where they were supposed to be. At least it makes things more fun when they’re creative/absurd.

    Thankfully this fun plays out when politicians or clergy or CEOs are snagged for doing something illegal or immoral. “Why were you in that bathroom airport with those drugs and that contraption?”

  20. @Ron

    Yes, creative excuses are the best. IIRC didn’t JTL say he’d had some serious all-weekend booze binge and that might have been why his passport values were off?

    Imagine the conversation with Dave Brailsford:

    Jonathan, I’m very disappointed. You know Sky has strict rules in our pursuit of marginal gains.

    Dave, I didn’t take any drugs.

    Oh, well why were your values off?

    Cause I went on a massive bender… err, that’s better isn’t it?

  21. @ChrisO

    But I also suspect it explains a few other young hot shots who don’t break through as their talent and results indicate. It’s harder to be specific though because there are so many other reasons people never make the jump and to be fair the main one is probably attitude or mindset.

    Mileage, that’s the big breaker.

    Anti-doping for U23 is pretty serious these days. JTL rose in the amateur ranks until a pretty advanced age (27, I think?).

    Most future stars (and even future non-stars, would-be domestiques and also-rans) just can’t handle the massive increase in workload that comes with WorldTour, or ProConti, levels of racing. U23 races are often short, around 120-14km, whereas WorldTour races are regularly in the ~200km range. Making the jump to Elite is a pretty sudden rise by about 50%. Couple that with the increase in training and you see kids doubling their mileage within a single year. Add in the pressure to perform and not disappoint your new team, and you have a bunch of overtrained riders burning out.

    A friend and local sparring partner of mine was a promising racer in his teens, won a bunch of races, managed stagiare rides for Footon-Servetto and small-scale outfits in Spain. When the offer from Saxobank came he took it without hesitating. Somehow, he just never performed there, not even in local races. I used to see him out there in the mountains, training no matter the conditions.

    I spoke to him last month about it, he said the sheer scale of things just demolished him, physically first and then later mentally. Now he runs the Sagan Cycling Academy team (debut tonight in San Luis!), trying to create a smoother transition for the aspiring youngsters.

  22. @ChrisO

    @Ron

    Yes, creative excuses are the best. IIRC didn’t JTL say he’d had some serious all-weekend booze binge and that might have been why his passport values were off?

    Pretty much. Claimed that the values are consistent with extreme dehydration resulting from a monster hangover. Right.

    In their decision, the judges noted that it doesn’t quite convince them that a neo-pro would celebrate his selection for the Worlds roster by going on a binge three days before the race.

  23. Beautiful country. I can imagine there are some amazing mountains to climb. If only the risk of lung cancer wasn’t 10 times that of most other countries.

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