|Cyclingnews TV News Tech Features Road MTB BMX Cyclo-cross Track Photos Fitness Letters Search Forum|
Trek - Marco Polo team diary
Riders of the China-registered Trek - Marco Polo Cycling Team report in from races around the world. Founded in 2000 and named after the famous traveler, Marco Polo, the team's mission is to provide talented cyclists from non-traditional cycling countries an opportunity to develop into world-class professionals. Formerly the development squad for the Discovery Channel team, Trek Bikes took over the main sponsorship position.
In 2008, Fuyu Li is one of the key riders of the team, and he will prepare to represent the host country at the Olympic road race in Beijing under the guidance of experienced team directors and team-mates like Bart Brentjens (former Olympic and World Champion) and Leon van Bon (winner of two Tour de France stages and Olympics and World’s medalist).
Next to the Trek – Marco Polo Cycling Team, Marco Polo Cycling also manages the Bike4All foundation that supports the development of cycling in poor development countries.
Read about the history of the team.
Back in the USA
By Remko Kramer
I walked across the parking lot under the palm trees, looking for our motor home. The biggest teams have even huge busses, but also the 'smaller teams' all have a big motor home here in the USA.
So the parking lot at the race hotel in Tybee Island is full of motor homes. One of them should be ours. Then I see the Chinese characters and there it says: GE Marco Polo Cycling Team presented by Trek. While I walk around the huge motor home my thoughts go back to 2002. Then we also had a motor home in the USA. It was the second year of the Marco Polo Cycling Club and we got together in California with a few adventurous cyclists from all over the world, for a few stage races. We ended up with a team of eight riders from eight nationalities. After a mailing to our club members in the USA we also found housing before and after the competitions, a team manager with car and also the motor home. One of the members offered to use his small Japanese van, with bed and kitchen inside. Well, the motor home we have now would fit about four small vans, I think when I enter. There is a couch, a four-person table with seats, a kitchen, toilet and shower, a two-person bed and one more big bed on top of the driver cabin.
So I will be driving this huge vehicle the coming week on the wide American roads.
The GE - Marco Polo Cycling Team presented by Trek
It is great that GE wants to be partner from our international team and that we get this chance. Our clothing sponsor Tineli produced jerseys, jackets and vests with the GE logo, it really fits in well and looks great. Tacx made us special bidons for this race with GE and the Marco Polo colours and style.
We did make sure we have a good team here in Georgia. The GE - Marco Polo Cycling Team for the Tour of Georgia has the following riders: the Chinese Liu Yi Lin and Xing Yan Dong, Australians Rhys Pollock and Jai Crawford, our Russian sprinter Sergey Kudentsov , Malaysian Loh Sea Keong and of course Leon van Bon from the Netherlands. The guys won a local race as a warming up to the big tour, so it looks like they are ready... Two days before the race, Chinese Fuyu Li is still on his way from the Asian Championships where he became 4th. We will pick him up from the airport in Savannah.
Next to the motor home, we have two team cars, the latest Volvo station wagons, two minivans and a big truck for material and bikes. And we need this truck... Sponsor Trek made sure the material was perfect. As a special surprise all riders on the team became the latest SRAM Red group, together with the Bontrager Aeolus carbon wheels, light and fast, they got the perfect set up on their new Madones. So the mechanics made long days before the race.
Also sponsor Oakley boosted up the morale from the riders by supplying special glasses in Marco Polo's bright light blue with Marco Polo imprint.
My girlfriend, photographer Francis Cerny and I are busy as well. We are the soigneurs of the team and take care of massages, drinks and food during and after the stages. We park the motor home close to the finish so the riders can take their rest and recovery straight away. We have plenty of Powerbar for during and after the race. And for our shopping we go to the big American supermarkets where everything comes in XXL packages.
Chinese national television
The next day we also pick up some guests from China. Chinese national television CCTV sent three journalists with camera to the USA to make a report on this first time that a Chinese cycling team participates in the USA.
They do some interviews with staff and riders. When it is Leon van Bon's turn we talk about the relativity of things like being famous. He may be famous in the Netherlands, but when he is at television in our small country, maybe a few million people will watch maximally. But now it will probably be more then 100 million people...
The field at the start of this Tour de Georgia is impressive. There are four ProTour teams, Gerolsteiner, High Road/Columbia, CSC and Astana with great riders. And the American teams, like Slipstream Chipotle/Garmin and Rock Racing have line ups that have the same strength. So we can expect some hard competition.
In stage one, we leave the friendly beach town of Tybee Island with their nicely painted wooden houses and sandy beaches. Over a kind of dam through the water with warning signs for crossing turtles we reach Savanah. After a superfast circuit the race finishes in the old harbour. Here is a great finish atmosphere. The two commentators make it a great final to watch on the big video screens.
All spectators get excited when they scream the field through the last 10 kilometres, mixed with some rock music. As spectator you can feel the adrenaline. Going into the last kilometre they see "GE Marco Polo's vaaaan Bon. This Tour de France top rider may just take off solo..." But we know better, there is another rider in our blue gear behind him. This is our Russian sprinter Sergey Kudentsov. It is a pity they got boxed in, only in the last 50 metres he gets some space and jumps to a nice fifth place.
The next day it is our young Malaysian Loh Sea Keong who surprises by taking some time bonus at an intermediate sprint. Rhys Pollock jumps in a break-away with two others and only gets caught towards the end of the stage. Also Rhys took some seconds and now we are 10, 11 and 12 in the general classification!
Rhys, who clearly was the strongest rider in the break coming in without even loosing time, is rewarded with the Most aggressive rider jersey.
There is some discussion that this would be a kind of a present for our by GE sponsored team. So the next day Rhys makes a statement and gets in the break of the day again. With three riders they stay more then 100 K ahead.
Team time trial
There is a spectacular team time trial at the car race circuit, Road Atlanta. The circuit is very hard with a very steep climb and fast corners. As decided the team starts not too fast. They have a good rhythm and want to increase their speed the third lap. The time is good in between the other teams. However Fuyu Li has a mechanical at the top of the climb and the team hesitates. So they loose some time and we miss one of the strongest motors of the team for the rest of the stage. At the end we miss a few seconds to beat some of the other teams. And loosing only 1:20 minutes on the top teams of High Road and Slipstream is not bad. Especially seeing the same teams at the top placings in the Giro d'Italia team time trial shortly after.
Brasstown Bald climb
So the team is doing well and in the hardest mountain stage it is the young Chinese Liu Yi Lin who is still present in the around 60 riders that are left, after several hard climbs. Of course our climber Jai Crawford is there as well. Jai finished last year 5th on the mega-climb of Genting Highlands in the Tour de Langkawi between strong professionals. This time he has some trouble fighting for his position when the group reaches the bottom of the famous Brasstown Bald climb. So he misses the first group with riders like Leipheimer, Sevilla, Sutherland and van der Velde. However it is the Belarusian Sivtsou from High Road who gets away in the last kilometre with 20 percent grade, wins the stage and takes the yellow jersey. Jai comes in as 16th in the same time with Julich and Rubiera.
Criterium downtown Atlanta
The final criterium downtown Atlanta is a great sports event in the middle of this big city. There are VIP areas and a place is filled with promotion tents and stands. Spectators are lined up everywhere. It is Rhys Pollock who shows his strength again, he attacks immediately and forces a 14 rider break-away. This group gets down to 10 riders. And going into the last lap, Rhys is still going strong and attacks several times. With less then two kilometres to go they get caught and it is High Road's Greg Henderson who wins the sprint ahead of CSC rider Haedo.
Cooperation with GE
The people from GE were very satisfied with the performance and the presence of our multi-national team. Before the Tour de Georgia our riders already visited some GE facilities. They met a lot of excited employees who were proud of their own cycling team. The team also visited a children hospital which is being supported by GE. The children were happy to forget their trouble for a while and hear some stories about cycling sports. Also the bidons and key holders with GE Marco Polo jersey made them happy.
The day after the Tour de Georgia there was a farewell party at GE. There our riders had another competition. They built up small children bicycles from Trek that were donated towards a project to support the chances to play and exercise for socially disadvantaged children.
We would like to thank the race organizer and GE for this great opportunity. We also hope that this partnership with GE will continue and give the team and GE great opportunities.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Francis Cerny