Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Qiansen Trophy aka #chinacx

 Where to begin on this whirlwind trip!  I guess at the beginning.  Subaru Cup - Mitch Hoke says, "Hey, You want to go to China and race Cross"  "Its free"  - I say, "No Way"  and so it begins...

A month later and I'm filling out race applications and receiving broken English e-mails from a guy named Song and wondering to myself if this is even real.  A few expedited Passport renewals for Andrea and Elicia, some Chinese Visa's and we are off!  Just don't drink the water and don't eat any fresh veggies that might have been washed in the water!

The alarm chimes at 3am and we were out to Milwaukee.  After a 5 hour layover in Detroit we board the plane for a epic 13:30 hour flight to Beijing!  Surprisingly the Beijing airport is quiet and customs is a piece of cake.  Outside our translator is waiting for us and we hop the bus for a 2 hour transfer to Yanqing. 

We arrive roughly 28 hours after we woke the previous day in the US.  With little to no sleep on the plane we were pretty tired, but pumped to be there.  Many of the other American racers had already arrived.

The next day after a decent amount of sleep we called a taxi(quite the challenge with the major language barrier) and we were off to the Great Wall of China at Badaling.  The Great Wall is over 4,000 miles long.  Try to wrap your head around that one....it was truly impressive.  I was blown away at how steep it was in certain sections.

After our trip to the wall we hit the city via bicycle to go and check out the race course.  First Impressions...bumpy and fast!  3 forced dismounts up steps, but no barriers.  3 good drops with some tricky surface transitions and a short fast brick start/finsh stretch.  All in all I was pretty happy with the course and I knew it would suit me well.  Navigating the city streets....that on the other hand was pretty challenging.  HONK HONK HONK!

We finished up the day with a Welcome Banquet dinner that included tons of good Chinese food.  Nothing crazy though...chicken, pork, rice, noodles....pretty standard.  Oh yeah...and flesh of a donkey!

Race day was pretty low key.  A good breakfast and then the waiting game.  Pinning on numbers and preparing  bottles.  I pedaled over to the race course around 12:30 arriving just in time for the 1:00 opening ceremonies and 1 last inspection lap on the race course.  I watched most of the Womens race to check out the start and some of the lines they were taking.

The race:  It started out good with a fron row call up.

I was 5th or so off of the pavement and then filed into the first few run ups in 4th place.  For about 35 minutes or so I was battling in the top 5, but then I hit the wall.  I fell off the pace of the group and I knew I was in trouble.  Luckily Arnoud Jouffry U23 World Champ was behind me and I had a chance to regroup and hopefully follow his wheel back up to the to 5.  It didn't work...I only blew up again!  Now in 6th position with 3 laps to go and a huge group coming up quickly.  They blew right by me and I was instantly outside of the top 10.  dang.  Oh well.  I just barely held on to a top 15.  In the end I had only lost 1:00 in those last 3 laps...and for how I felt that was pretty impressive because it should have been more.  It was such a high speed course!

Glad the first cross race of the season is over with...its definitely a vastly different effort than the MTB.  I think the next round will go much smoother.  Hopefully Providence and Boulder are next up.

After the race we had another amazing dinner with all the athletes, race promoters, and UCI staff.  Then it was game on!  We were staying at a Hot Springs Resort.  So it was time to go check it out.  It was pretty spectacular sight to walk into this resort and see 20 Americans laid out from racing on the heated marble tile slabs getting ready for Chinese Foot Massages.  40 minutes of pure pleasure followed by 15-20 different style hot tub spas including one with flesh eating fish to make your feet smooth!  It was a trip!

We hung out in the hot tubs for about 4 hours and partied it up!  Good times.  The next morning we hit the town before leaving for the airport.  We took in some local culture by doing some souvenir shopping, checking out the food carts and of course a morning exercise session!

The flight home went fast for me....9 hour of sleep on the 12 hour flight!  Winning!  Huge thanks to the Qiansen Sports Group for their amazing hospitality and a trip of a lifetime. 

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