China, a reflection.
I’m not one to feign enthusiasm or excitement. For better or for worse, I tend to speak my mind. This is probably why I have held off writing any blogs – or even one blog – from last week’s racing in China. I needed time to sit back and reflect on what was my sixth trip to China and the Tour of Chongming Island.
It should be a race I love, if not because it always finishes in bunch sprints then because it was one of my first international races as a senior in 2009, and I won it. Still, I’m filled with a lethargic feeling every time I think about it. Maybe it’s because sub-consciously I’m mourning the week and bit I’m forced to endure without red meat, but realistically I think it’s more likely because of the style of racing.
To put it bluntly, the Tour – and World Cup – is in desperate need of a ‘spice up’.
This year, out of three stage finishes and the World Cup finish, we finished on the same straight – with the same finish line, in the same direction – four out of four times. 800ms straight from the final left hand corner, the three lane wide road is only punctuated by a small rise from about 500 to 350ms to go as it turns into a bridge. Then, as the saying goes, ‘what goes up must come down’ the road tilts downwards for the final 350ms. If there’s some significance to where we finish it’s lost on me.
It’s a finish perfectly suited to Kirsten Wild because of her power and because – quite simply – she’s bigger than everyone else. To beat her you need to either time your sprint perfectly or she needs to misjudge her sprint. Two things that very rarely happen.
Whats more, unlike Qatar (which on paper is a tour very similar to China) where the stages are similar each year and the roads lack the technical aspects of Europe, the weather very rarely plays a role in the outcome. In my six years of racing on Chongming Island only one stage has been torn apart by wind. Of course, we can’t blame the organisers for this. Although I’m sure the Chinese government would claim to control the weather if they could.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the Tour and the World Cup don’t deserve to be on the calendar. Far from it. Looking back on my first experience of the Tour in 2009 I think they offer a great opportunity for young riders, particularly from the Oceania region, to gain valuable international experience in a peloton that isn’t quite as scary as Europe.
In the future I would love to see more development national teams from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India – the sorts of countries – competing and only a select group of professional teams.
She seemed as excited as I was when I chased Fredrik Eklund down the street in Oslo and asked for his autograph. He’s a reality TV star if you’re wondering, don’t judge me.
I can see the value in big teams like Wiggle Honda, Hitec Products and Ale Cippolini attending the race to give younger riders and less experienced international riders a ‘taste’ of what real professional racing is like.
I know how I looked at the ‘Euro pros’ and watched how they raced back in 2009. I was wide eyed and in awe of the teams with their matching equipment and how they raced together. This year as I loaded onto one of three buses that was transporting the entire peloton to Shanghai for the start of the World Cup a young Indonesian girl beamed at me and said, ‘Hello Chloe’. She seemed as excited as I was when I chased Fredrik Eklund down the street in Oslo and asked for his autograph. He’s a reality TV star if you’re wondering, don’t judge me. I smiled back at her warmly and asked how she was.
Along with a shake up in the composition of the peloton there desperately needs to be a change to the courses. Circuit races, different finishes each day, and more technical parcours could do wonders to change the dynamic of the tour. But you never know, maybe like the Australian National Championships course the organisers have committed to the same finishing straight for the next 100 years. Still, they could change the direction.
My week in China was salvaged and the lethargic feeling somewhat dulled by a few things; the hospitality of the people, the torrential rain of the third stage which did offer some respite from the monotony of the stage race, the guest appearance of my Dad, and Giorgia Bronzini’s victory in the World Cup. A chaotic sprint forced Wild to start her run for the line early while a headwind slowed her. Gio was able to hide behind her and only hit the wind with 50ms to race. The perfect sprint.