So I went to China and did some international UCI cyclocross races in August and early September. Yes, this is a thing, and there isn’t much information available about it on the Internet. But I am going to change that – lack-of-information – in one solid blog post.
With less than two-weeks before I needed to be on a plane, enroute to China to race, I received an email from the race organization:
Dear Friends,Welcome to China and the 3rd
annual Qiansen Trophy Cyclo- cross Festival! In 2015, Qiansen Trophy Cyclo- cross will hold two stations in China, dates from 08.30.15 – 09.2.15.Hope to see you in China! Let’s enjoy the events together!Best wishes,
Songyanxing, Director of the Race Department
That was pretty much it. An official invitation to race in China, out-of-the-blue. Two C1 events, with UCI points going 15-deep. Book a ticket, get your travel Visa, get on a plane and go, NOW.
IT’S NOT A FREE VACATION TO CHINA
The Chinese tourism board is funding these athletic endeavours in China. They want events happening with international competitors to spur internal tourism interest. So they are paying for athletes to travel from out-of-country. I had to buy my own plane ticket, but was reimbursed by the race organization – in cold-hard-cash. They also arranged all of my transportation from the airport, to the hotel, and to the races. All meals were served through the hotel, and covered under the travel expenses. I could have done the whole trip without a wallet (but I would have been pretty hungry at the airport). My total out-of-pocket for the 9-day trip? Less than one-hundred American dollars.
However, it’s not a free vacation to China. They are bringing you there to RACE. That means you are expected to be in athlete-mode for the duration of your trip. Eat, sleep, race, repeat. There is not much time to be a tourist during the trip. We got to see the Great Wall for an hour, wander around Beijing after a race, and visit a “replica” ancient Chinese village – but that was pretty much it. If you want to see more of China while you are there, I recommend extending your stay after the races are over. Your western dollar will go very far in China if you decide to stay.
IT’S NOT FREE UCI POINTS
A few legitimate World Cup racers attended the races, along with many racers capable of a top-10 in a North American UCI event, and then a handful of racers who probably shouldn’t have been there in the first-place. If you can hang at a UCI level, and you don’t just own a UCI license because you think it’s cool, you can hang at these races – as long as you are in reasonable race-shape. As these events gain more prestige, it will become harder-and-harder to pick up some early season points – and you’ll be getting lapped by World Cup Euros going a-minute-a-lap faster than you.
The courses are not that great. They are good imitation of what a good CX course might seem like, but like many knock-off products made in China – there is something just not quite right about it. The courses would make for respectable, non-sanctioned courses in your local CX series. But they fall short when dealing with the speeds and pack mentality of international UCI racing. While there is no “singletrack” – there is a lot of single-tracks. Better get that hole-shot, or prepare for an hour of traffic negotiation.
TIPS FOR YEE WHO DARE RACE IN THE FAR EAST
- Bring two tire options, file tread and mud tires. It started pouring at the start of one race, and no-one was prepared. Mud-slick mayhem.
- Bring every possible thing you would need to repair your bike, cables, housing, brake pads, bar-tape, chain, etc. Chinese bike shops don’t even sell inner-tubes, seriously.
- Avoid meat, seafood and even vegetables when possible. Your tummy just isn’t used to the different types of normal, safe bacteria in China. Learn to enjoy rice and hard-boiled eggs for 9-days straight. The hotels will serve you 90% meat-things.
- Bring as much of your own comfort food as you can possibly fit in your bags. I would have killed someone for a jar of peanut-butter during this trip – and almost did.
- Bring your own coffee solution, instant or otherwise if you need a caffeine fix.
- Drink and horde bottled water (it will be provided by the race organization and hotel in mass quantity)
- Learn some basic Chinese phrases BEFORE you go. It will go a long way to getting you around and making sure your needs are met. Some members of the race organization can do some basic translation for you, but they aren’t always available. Especially at the airports when you are haggling over baggage fees.
- This much travel will ruin you. Of the 9-days I was there, almost half-of-that was spent in an airport, on a plane or on a bus. It took me two-weeks to get-over the jet-lag following the trip, with my ass still dragging going-into Cross Vegas.
- The race organization will offer to take you to places like the Great Wall or other tourists destinations. DON’T SKIP THESE EVENTS. You are in China for fucks sake, go see some things that will blow your mind.
Photos brought to you by the amazing New Zealand photographer and karoke singer Ricoh Riot. More at http://www.ricohriottphotography.com/