When I first heard that China was going to host their first every UCI cross race I disregarded it as I thought that there wasn’t anyway I could get it to work with my current race schedule or race budget for this season. Then I got a message from my wife one afternoon referencing the CXMagazine article that was calling for riders to apply if they were interested and that the promoter was willing to pay for all of the expenses, so I threw my name in the hat on the outside chance of getting selected. Even after getting an acceptance letter I was pretty apprehensive about the trip actually coming to fruition. The process was lacking a certain amount of communication which I’m sure was partially due to the language barrier and the massive difference in time. So I was not allowing myself to get too excited about the trip until I was actually on the plane and headed to Beijing.
In addition to Kenny and myself there were about seven Americans on the flight. We landed in Beijing where our interpreter met us and escorted us onto a bus that would drive us 70k out of the city and into the Mountains or Northern China. With the lack of sleep and physical/mental exhaustion that was CrossVegas, I could have been easily convinced that I had been dropped off at the newest ‘hotel/resort’ on ‘The Strip” called the Great Wall. It wasn’t until we had arrived at the hotel and we started seeing the other racers that had arrived the couple of days prior that I was actually sure that I was in China and we were going to race our bikes.
We got checked into our rooms and went to join the welcoming banquet that was already going on. We sat down and shared a table with the two Italian riders where we began to examine the interesting items on the menu. Most of us were fairly open to trying new and different foods…as long as we know what was in it. The most interesting thing on this menu was the ‘Meat of Donkey’ and no, I didn’t try it.
It was another short night of sleep as we were up early to eat breakfast and get ready to head over to the course for practice. The only feedback I had heard up to this point was that the course was good but bumpy. Really bumpy. The 15min ride from the hotel to the course was a great way to get a true taste of what a metropolitan area in China was like. Once we got to the venue I was able to get in a couple of good laps and get a lay of the land and a feel for what the course was like. Everyone was right, it was bumpy. It was also pretty technical with some good elevation changes and some fast, flowy corners broken up with some raw power sections. I like it. We rode back to the hotel and grabbed some lunch. We had a little time to hang out and relax then it was the short yet ever so exciting ride back to the venue for the opening ceremonies and the women’s race. It was truly impressive what the promoter had but together for this event. It was complete with multiple JumboTrons, a grand stand with a covered VIP area, and a live feed that was being broadcast on the web. After getting out to another poor start and getting a feel for how the fast technical corners were riding I started working my way thru the pack. By the last couple of laps I had settled into 15th place and was in no-mans-land. I finished it out with good sensations and getting better aquainted with the XFire and the new SRAM Hydro Disc brakes (fantastic). With the strong international field (16 countries represented) I was happy enough with the top 15 finish, 4th American behind Justin Lindine (3rd), Steve Fisher (6th), and Brian Matter (14th).
That evening we had a big banquet celebrating the race and it’s success. There was even talk of hosting it again next year as a two day event.
The following day was Sunday ( I think) and we finally had some time to get in a little tourist action. Kenny and I were on an 8:00 shuttle to the Great Wall along with the team from Great Brittan. After spending a couple of hours at the Great Wall and thoroughly frustrating our translator and guide we were back at the hotel for lunch then it was off the the GeoPark. This consisted of walking through the mouth of a massive yellow dragon, getting on 3 consecutive escalators, then getting on a boat and taking a tour of a spectacular canyon. At one point we came around the bend and there was a cable that had to be close to 100ft above the water. A man on a bike rides out on the cable and stops, hangs out for a few min the rides the rest of the way across. Pretty strange thing to see at what would be considered here in the us as a National Park. But not so strange considering the optional Bungee Jumping, the “Flower Cave” and the Alpine Slide that took us back down.
The evening went by fairly quickly as we had to depart the hotel at 4am to get to the Beijing Airport. This put us there 6 hrs before our 12:00 flight but we weren’t ones to complain since we were sharing a shuttle with UK team that had an earlier flight. However, it was a little more difficult to swallow once we found out that our flight had been delayed by 5hrs. That means we were at the Beijing Airport for 11 hrs before getting on a 13hr flight back to SFO, then due to a slight overlook on my behalf, we connected in LAS, then to DEN, where my beautiful wife was a eagerly awaiting. After a short 2 1/2 hr drive into the now snow peaked mtns I was finally home. Nothing like a 36 hour travel day to get you ready for your work week. All and all the whole experience was absolutely amazing. Yes, I was wrecked for a week but I am extremely grateful and happy that cycling has taken me to China, and hopefully, the opportunity to go back to China Next year is a reality.
So, here’s some quick math for you:
In 10 days (240 hrs) I was on an airplane for 43 hrs, in the airport 29hrs, in a car or on a bus going to or coming from and airport for 15hrs. Raced my bike for 6.5hrs. That = 93.5 hrs. If you take an average of 6hrs of sleep per day (believe me I got way less than that) that only leaves 86hrs (3.5days) to fit in eating breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, go for a ride, feed and exercise a horse in Greenville, go to Interbike, check out The Great Wall of China, take a leisurely tour on a motor boat up a pristine canyon, walk thru the ‘Flower Cave’ and take a 2.5 min ride on an Alpine Slide.
It’s a crazy life, but it’s good to be alive.