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Marco Polo team diary
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 - www.dcmpteam.com
Tour of Islamabad, Pakistan
Report by Remko Kramer
Two road races with international participation were held this year in Pakistan. It was nothing like people might expect; the events were one big celebration of cycling. Pakistani like sports and even in times of big turmoil, people come out in peace to watch a race go by. It was like this in the 2006 mountain bike event, in the 2007 Tour of Pakistan and Tour of the Himalays on the road; it will be like that again in the upcoming Tour of the Himalayas MTB event.
For MTB riders in good physical condition there is a great opportunity to take part in the upcoming Tour of Himalayas in September. You can join this fundraising event and enjoy some of the most amazing scenery on earth while doing your sport. More information below.
Back to Pakistan
Race organizer Khurram Khan and sportive advisor Nathan Dahlberg had their second cycling event in Pakistan. The special thing about their events is that they are fund raising events for the victims of the earthquake that hit Pakistan in 2005. The proceedings of the events go to the Khagan Memorial Fund which is building a new school in the Khagan Valley, the epicenter of the earthquake.
In September last year there was a mountain bike stage race in the Khagan Valley. And this year Khurram and Nathan managed to get a decent field of road cyclists to Islamabad to race the three day Tour of Islamabad. Even more importantly, they managed again to get some good corporate sponsorship together, for example Pakistan International Airlines, Sui Southern Gas Company, Pakistan State Oil and the Ministry of Tourism supported the event.
It was great to meet some of our friends from the mountain bike race and a bunch of new adventurers. The Discovery Channel Marco Polo Team was present of course. Robin Reid, who had just won the 15 day Tour of Pakistan; good-old Jamsran Ulzii-Orshikh "Oggi" from Mongolia and young talents from Japan, Hisanori Akiyama and Chinese Yu Tong were there to defend our blue colors.
Tour of Pakistan
Robin Reid had some great stories about his adventures in the Tour de Pakistan, with 15 days one of the longest stage races in the world. The 15 days ultimately even became 16, since an extra rest day had to be added. A demonstration in the village where the race was blocked the route and threatened the safety of the convoy.
Starting in Karachi and crossing all the country, the race got attention everywhere and was celebrated everywhere it went and nothing like some would expect in Pakistan…
With just a few days to go and the (super-large and thick, heavy, no zipper) yellow jersey with a good margin around his shoulders, Robin suddenly had to fear the worst. Going strong in a solo attack, the police escort in front suddenly stopped and turned around. They were going the wrong way and when getting to the finish they met the rest of the field… who were already on their way to the hotel... Luckily the commissaries decided to neutralize this stage end Robin could add the first stage race victory of 2007 to the Discovery Channel Marco Polo Team.
Tour of Islamabad
The Tour of Islamabad was also a great event which was celebrated big time by the local Pakistan people. Everywhere people were interested and very friendly to the foreign sportsmen and women. The race had more then 20 women competing among them some Pakistani women cyclists. This got a lot of attention from the media in a country were women are not fully integrated in every part of society. But this also got positive response from the normal people on the streets!
The race in the men's category was dominated by the Iran team with Kazemi Ahad taking the lead from the first stage. Chinese Yu Tong gave good competition in the first stage but couldn't handle the two Iranians in the five man break-away. The second stage saw a tougher parcours, which went up the road to Murree, up a 12 km climb which had to be climbed two times. Time to try and attack the Iranians for Discovery Channel Marco Polo! Oggi took the lead and put on a tough tempo, this broke the group in pieces and when Hisanori and Yu Tong took over only 10 riders were left in the first group. Yu Tong tried a few times, but it was Robin who chose the right moment and went solo to take this stage victory; the lead remained with Kazemi Ahad, however.
The last stage was in the central park of Islamabad. It was a nice lap but the strong wind made it hard. The Iran team put on a strong tempo from the start, the attacks from the favorites in the classification took their toll and only 12 riders were left in one group. Yu Tong tried several times, but could not improve his 4th place in GC. German development rider from Marco Polo Cycling, Nils Voetmann choose the right moment and was joined by Justin Kerr from New Zealand. Nils became 2nd, a nice result for this guy.
The event was closed with a great party at one of the modern clubs in Islamabad. The day after everybody was invited to relax at a lake outside the city where it was nice to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Pakistan.
We left Pakistan with a lot of good memories again and good experiences with friendly people in a super-beautiful country.
MTB Tour of Himalayas
As was mentioned before, when you are in good physical condition and want to enjoy some great adventure, this is your chance: join the Tour of Himalayas MTB stage race in September. Also riders in tourist category are welcome to join this event which is a fundraising for a good cause, building and maintenance of a school in the earthquake devastated area in Pakistan. Three days of mountain bike racing at altitude (2500 – 4200 meters). If you also want to boost your performance at home, you can join the altitude training camp there.
For more information: - and donations are welcome - www.kmt.org.pk
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Francis Cerny