I flew from Chiang Mai (Thailand) via Shanghai to Dalian airport on a red-eye flight. This meant leaving Chiang Mai at around 8pm, sleeping on the floor of Shanghai Pudong airport for a couple of hours at 4am-6am local time, before re-checking in again for the next leg to Dalian. Upon arriving at Dalian, I was greeted by my team manager, Tommy. We had a chat and a coffee whilst waiting for one more rider to arrive around 1pm local time. Finally we got on the bus around 2pm, arriving at the race hotel around 5pm. The bikes were on a separate truck and weren’t due to arrive for another hour. Fortunately, I could borrow a team mates bike for a short ride before nightfall.
One thing I would definitely do differently here – travel one day earlier! The overnight flight with 2 hours sleep certainly wasn’t ideal preparation.
The bike arrived late evening, assembled with no problems at all,
thankfully! Just a few minor adjustments – ‘brifters’ had been moved slightly during transit, some minor rear derailleur tweaking to get the SRAM red shifting smoothly on the Neil Pryde Bura SL.
Nich Atem 56 tubulars with Corsa Evo CX were the wheels of choice for this race, 23mm front and 25mm rear. The roads in China tend to be pretty good on the whole, but there can be rough patches. Having the 25mm rear allows you to run a slightly lower pressure, giving you a more comfortable ride.
We were notified via our team manager that the race had been reduced to just 4laps, down to 103km total. This meant it would almost certainly be a sprint finish. Although there were some rolling hills, they weren’t big enough to cause a split in the peloton. The group could easily make up what it lost to the climbers on the way back down. The race was due to start at 8:30am, but we were told to be ready to leave at 6am!
After a quick breakfast consisting of oats, white bread and a coffee, I went down to join my team and proceed to slowly ride the 15km from the hotel to the start line. Arriving at the race start line there was some confusion as to where the riders should be, we actually had a paddock area with tents and stools for each team to wait in. After sitting there for some time, we were called to sign against our number and proceed up to the start line.
The gun went around 8:15, a whole 15 minutes sooner than scheduled. Fortunately I’d already taken a pre-race gel at that point. The race started quickly, but relatively safely. I had been given a tip to start up front and watch out for a nasty right hander through a narrow section of road at around kilometer 5, so I took that onboard and kept up front. The first lap went by fairly uneventfully, no real breakaway attempts, no crashes or close calls. As I hadn’t had a chance to see the course previously, this was a good chance to work out possible breakaway points. I noticed a nice double step climb around half way through the 26km lap, those that went hard in the first step, suffered
in the second step. This might be a good place to try and get away!
The second lap was more of the same, with a few more breakaway attempts. I glanced down at my powermeter readings, first lap was around 245w average power/300w normalized power, the first and second lap the average power had increased to 280w.
On the 3rd lap, I tried to break on the 2 step hill with my team mate Sachin Kumar (Indian National Champion), but it wasn’t long before we were chased down by the Specialized Beijing team.
It was clear that any attempted breakaway would be chased down, the goal for many of the teams was the team classification due to the prize money. Most of the Chinese teams have strong sprinters, so their goal was to keep things together for a bunch sprint.
On the final lap, things started to get a little scary – with spectators
standing on the side of the road, not considering the peloton moving towards them at 60kph. I was forced to the edge at one point, yelling at a woman with a young baby standing on the road! Fortunately I managed to squeeze by, she still continued to stand there ‘Surprising’.
As we got closer to the 5km sign, more riders came to the front, still a large peloton consisting of some ‘larger’ riders who had clearly been sitting at the back all day. I couldn’t move to the front, so the point I had chosen to attempt ‘going long’ passed, I was still sitting in the pack. I finally managed to get around the group, leaving the edge of the tarmac and on the grass for a few metres.
I attempted one final break, it was already too late, I was caught quickly as the road descended one last time before the final short hill to the finish.
I began the climb, one rider in front of me touched bars, then wheels with the rider next to him, fortunately I managed to get around without getting involved, but lost speed on the climb (steep at 7%, but very short), I continued on to the final section, only to have to swerve around my team mate who had crashed and was later taken to hospital to have stiches put in his chin!
Overall, positioned 34th in the bunch, way off the podium hopes I had – but that is the unfortunate nature of racing, things don’t always go to plan. I will put this race down to experience; in all honesty if I had known the distance would be reduced, I would not have travelled so far for such a short race favoring sprinters.
I would like to thank Team Quick for inviting me to this race,
especially team manager, Tommy for organizing everything. I would also like to thank my sponsor Nich for letting me use a great set of wheels for this race, smooth rolling bearings, light and aero!
Also to Peak for providing some great gels