Across the Other Pond: Steve Fisher’s Rider Diary from China’s First UCI Cyclocross Race
by Steve Fisher
First of all, let me tell you that Oceans are not to be confused with ponds. When you fly an airplane over a pond, I think it takes approximately 0.003129 seconds. It takes much longer to fly an airplane over an ocean. Now that we’ve got that out of the way I’ll tell you that I flew over the other ocean. I say the “other ocean” because I went over the Pacific Ocean to race my cyclocross bike, while most cyclocross adventures take Americans over the Atlantic Ocean to race in Europe. What I’m talking about is the Qiansen Trophy UCI C2 Cyclocross Event; the first international cyclocross race to be held in China. The event organizers wanted to do things big and graciously provided transportation and lodging for the entire men’s and women’s fields.
Most racers arrived in Beijing on the Wednesday before the race. On Thursday morning, the race organization took us to visit the Great Wall of China in Badaling. I was very surprised and impressed by the steepness of the terrain that the wall covered. Walking up to the main part of the wall was the same as walking up a couple flights of stairs, but walking along the wall itself was down right challenging. There were sections so steep that using one’s hands to aid in climbing was tempting; sort of like a very steep cyclocross run up. If you’re going to invade China, I’d recommend choosing some less challenging terrain.
After visiting the Wall, everyone was excited to go check out the course that we’d be racing on. We figured that a simple fifteen-minute bike ride would get us there. That’s easier said than done on Chinese streets. I tried to learn the rules of the road by observation, but if I learned anything, it’s that there are no rules. If you want to go somewhere or for example make a left turn through oncoming traffic, simply lay on the horn and start making your way. The funny thing about cyclocross bikes is that most of them don’t have horns. Somehow our fiftyish rider group made it to the course without incident.
The course was excellent and featured several short steep climbs and descents. But while I looked forward to race day, I focused on consuming delicious Chinese foods at the hotel buffet. The race organizers certainly made sure that we were well fed, and the wildest thing I ate was probably goose meat. It was delicious. I’m going to see if I can talk Adam into raising some geese for me on the farm… A belly full of goose seems to make for good bike racing.
The race went well for Chinese cyclocross because it was a successful and well-organized event. To top it off, the race also went quite well for me as I battled my way forward the entire race after a lack luster start. I made it all the way to the second group and ended up finishing top ten in sixth. Good racing calls for celebration and the race officials didn’t disappoint. We had another awesome dinner with plenty of baijiu, a popular liquor in China that is made from rice. The next morning we all packed up and headed back across the ocean. While my trip to China was a bit of a whirlwind, it was an experience that I’ll never forget and I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to travel across the world just to race my bike in circles.
It is good to be back home in Seattle, just a touch tiring. The next few weeks will keep Adam and I closer to home and in search of some Pacific NW racing in the mud. Even though there wont be any goose, there will be plenty of mud. I can’t wait!
The time and support for these columns is provided by Raleigh Bikes, HiFi Wheels, FSA, JL Velo, TRP, Feedback Sports, and Giro. Also thanks to the kind folks at CXM for edits and credits.
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