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Tales from the travellers the diary of Team Marco Polo
Shanghai, China, August 1, 2006
Russian Rocket in Shanghai
By Rhys Pollock
After arriving in China, I was happy to have team manager Rob Conijn text me and say he had just arrived too and if I hurried we could head to wherever we were going together. I can tell you I hurried up with getting my bags etc, as it meant that I didn't have to find my own way to the hotel. The hotel was about 250km away so after we got there I was even more grateful as I would have seriously struggled at 10pm as speak no Chinese!!! So we did what you do when you're in China and get a taxi! As you do for a 250km journey!!
The first day there Oggi (our team captain Jamsran Ulzii Oshikh) thought that a 140km ride was in order, so off we went. Well, we got a little lost and amazingly asked a policeman in Hangzhou how to get back to where we were staying and he spoke really good English. Shocked!
The next day the rest of the team arrived and we did a fast 200km with 37km/h average. Over the next few days we rode many kilometres, although a bit slower, which gave us the chance to get to know the new team members from China and Russia.
The new Chinese guys sometimes follow special programs to teach them about interval training and stuff. We also tried to explain to them some things about food, but it seems hard for them to understand that fat food is not good for you…
The team staff did a terrific job in teaching these guys something more then they knew before, although it remains a step by step process. Oggi is also great with them. He speaks a few words of Chinese and is just a great example, with all his experience in Asia and Europe. He is a guy everybody automatically respects.
It is great that the team is taking it's responsibility towards the agreement with the CCA (development of the best Chinese riders towards Beijing 2008) seriously. The difference in ability between the Chinese riders is enormous. The guys that are in the team for a year are doing Okay, they are picking up the routine. The new guys sometimes seem hopeless, it sometimes hurts me to see how they treat their fantastic team design Trek Madones.
That it is hard to find your way in China is proven by Sergei, our new Russian sprinter. He arrived by night on the back of a motorbike (he obviously fitted in - the Marco Polo concept of travelling light was no secret to him) carrying just a backpack, he would get all his racing gear there. He sat on the back of the motorbike (cheaper then a taxi) for hours from the nearest train station. It turned out that our hotel was named after the highest mountain in the region, which the driver took him to…. Straight to the top of the mountain!! A good start!!
So after a few more days of training between the tea fields and eating in restaurants that don't cater for 15 people who all want to sit together, we headed off to Tour of Chongming Island.
Chongming Island is a one hour ferry trip off the coast from Shanghai. Not much here really, although the Chinese have the race here to try to promote tourism to the people of Shanghai .(this doesn't say much for Shanghai to me!) No really, its okay just a flat island and ,as everywhere else in China, it's highly populated. A lot more green than Shanghai, though!
If you have never been to China it's a real culture shock. You start with the food. Well breakfast is sort of like lunch and lunch is pretty much the same as dinner so it can get a bit confusing!
Then you move onto the traffic, I'm not sure if there is a book on traffic rules and if there is, I don't think anybody has read it! They must be colour blind as well because they don't seem to stop at red lights. Then there's the horns. Those bloody horns, they use them so much that after a while I don't think they have any effect because there's so many people honking that nobody knows if they are being honked at or its just the sound of their own horns.
But it is really an interesting country of contrasts and bike races causes a lot of interest and the local people came out to line the road to cheer you on.
Anyway I've been going on for a while and nothing about the racing. Well our new sprinter Sergei Kudentsov was third on the first day and after a hard 180km second stage was able to pick up the win. I worked all the way until the final few hundred metres before pulling off the front and letting him do his sprint, luckily he was fast enough.
The third stage was 130km and the wind was the deciding factor that split the race. I was in the first 20 riders sprinting for the win, but after a crazy final 500metres got boxed in and finished around 10th. Sergei had missed the split and just before Kenji and Oggi helped him back, he was taken out by a Chinese rider that missed a corner. He is out of GC now… So we can race freely and try to make some differences in the next stages.
The fourth stage was (what we thought would be) a great day to break up the field, with 205km of windy, tight roads with many changes of direction. Well things don't always work out how you plan them to and in the end it came down to a bunch finish. But saying that it worked out well anyway as Sergei won the crazy sprint for the line.
On to the last stage. With still a chance to try and make an impact on the race. We decided we had nothing to lose and we would go from the gun. Well the field was strung out for the first 40km but nobody could break the elastic and get away. After trying several more times in the stage to no avail, it was destined to be a bunch sprint again.
Unfortunately Oggi came down in a nasty crash five kilometres from the finish and was taken to hospital for some x-rays (he was okay, besides a small scratch in his skull and his face having been scraped along the road!) As the race went to the line at over 65km/h, Sergei was barely beaten by a rider from the South African team.
All in all, the race was pretty successful with two stage wins, Fuyu fifth and me ninth on GC, Fuyu was the first Chinese rider and we came second on teams classification.
Thanks must go to all the guys for helping out. Gudo, Marcel, Rob, Kai and Todd (from Trek) and Dan and George the translator
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Francis Cerny/Marco Polo Cycling Team
For more information on the Marco Polo Cycling Club and its travels, visit: www.marcopolocycling.com