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Marco Polo team diary

Sea Keong Loh (Discovery Channel Marco Polo)
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

The Marco Polo Cycling Club reports from races in non-traditional cycling countries with stories and reports from the Discovery Channel Marco Polo Team. Founded in 2000 and named after the famous traveller, Marco Polo, its mission is to provide talented cyclists from non-traditional cycling countries an opportunity to develop into world-class professionals.

After years of building, the team signed Fuyu Li, and his success and subsequent signing with the Discovery Channel ProTour team led to a partnership between the two teams, resulting in the formation of the 2007 Discovery Channel Marco Polo Team. The team provides a development path for cyclists beyond the traditional borders of the U.S. and Europe to the highest level of cycling competition.

Discovery Channel Marco Polo Team -

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Message from Multinational in Kuala Lumpur

By Remko Kramer

Loh Sea Keong and Xing Yan Dong
Photo : Francis Cerny
(Click for larger image)

Marco Polo recently held a meeting in Dubai, a business city par excellence. Present were the general manager, the commercial manager and me. We discussed the start of 2007, the achievement of our goals so far and the methods to improve future results. High on our list are the investments in developments in China, as we expect the country to boom in the years to come.

After the meeting, we travelled to Kuala Lumpur, where international representatives of ten nationalities were awaiting our arrival. The main goals for this gathering were team building and the implementation of new tools in order to improve the results of the first quarter of 2007.

I felt like a member of the board of a multinational stock market. But the business we are in isn't about money and economics. It's about cycling. I am one of the directors of the Discovery Channel Marco Polo Team, on the way to the training camp with our new riders. When we talk results, we are discussing the podium places and future victories in the races and implementation of new tools is about the new Trek bikes.

Apart from scoring good results with the riders of the team, the goal of the team is the development of Asian talents, in cooperation with the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, participating in the ProTour. And part of this development is the training and teaching of these new and upcoming talents. In order to achieve a maximum result, we selected the riders not only by nationality and cycling skills but also by experience and ability to transfer this knowledge to the less experienced riders. The result of this selection procedure is a mixed and balanced squad. Riders from different continents and ages should provide the team with good results and the education/development of new and upcoming Asian talents.

Thijs Zonneveld
Photo : Francis Cerny
(Click for larger image)

We choose Malaysia to have our early season training camp, since the first races of the year took place in this part of Asia. We got together with most of the team, 12 riders and eight staff from Discovery Channel Marco Polo Team. Apart from the three managers, two mechanics (Henk from the Netherlands and Dan from Thailand), photographer/soigneur Francis Cerny from Germany, sportive advisor Nathan Dahlberg from New Zealand (one of the founding fathers of the team) and China representative Linna Zhang were present.

Our base was in the South of Kuala Lumpur from where we could train some nice routes. The training camp was a good opportunity to meet the new riders in the team. Of course, the riders that stayed with us from last year were present; they gave some training directions and taught the young riders in several aspects of the cycling sports.

Besides training and team building, the camp was used for implementation of new material. The mechanics installed and prepared new bikes for the new riders in order to be fully up to speed once the new 2007 model of the Trek Madone would be delivered, just before the start of the Tour de Langkawi.

This model provides the latest technology for maximum stiffness and minimum weight. It has the most beautiful paint job with a crawling Chinese dragon on the top tube, which makes a perfect match with the new 2007 clothing from Tineli, designed by Francis Cerny. Also, the fastest lightweight wheels from Bontrager were prepared and tested.

With the 10 nationalities among the riders and staff, the communication is basically in English but with some translations among each other or sign language is sometimes needed. Part of the success lies in communication, so the Dutch riders took the initiative to start some English lessons for the Chinese and Japanese riders, who needed to improve their language skills. In the evening, they got together and had fun while learning each other their mutual languages.

The Discovery Channel Marco Polo Team
Photo : Francis Cerny
(Click for larger image)

The training programs that were planned by trainer and sports doctor Edwin Achterberg had some different aspects of intervals and endurance training. For the new Chinese riders these are new ways of training.

On one day, we crossed the city of Kuala Lumpur to the mountain of Genting Highlands, one of the hardest climbs of Asia and the finish of one of the stages of the Tour de Langkawi. This was a good test for the new young riders in the team. And Chinese Liu Yi Lin and 19 year-old Zhang Wei showed their great talent on this exceptionally hard climb.

At the end of the camp, when everybody left for his or her home countries or upcoming races, only one conclusion could be drawn: the camp was a success and if this tendency will be continued, 2007 will be a year to remember.