It has been a busy few weeks for me to say the least. Travelling is a massive part of the race season and it’s definitely been emphasised during the past month or so. The first part of the month was spent in Italy doing a few races then I flew home for the Tour of Yorkshire followed by jetting off the very next day to start my travels to China. I’m not complaining, I love being busy.
This trip was my first time in China and I was very excited to have a new experience in a different continent. My racing is mainly in Europe so I’m constantly traveling but seeing very similar places. This however was completely different.
The first difference would have to be the food. A standard pre race cyclist meal would be including pasta/rice, chicken, keeping it very simple. However there the buffet was far from simple. Dishes such as grilled pigs knuckle, braised bullfrog, stewed pigs feet soup, boiled chicken feet… You get the picture and can imagine I stayed well away. But the Asian riders were tucking right in. I played the safe option and stuck to the egg fried rice and noodles.
After our first meal at the hotel we had an opening ceremony which was a lot bigger of a deal than I thought it would be. The Chinese loved the occasion of a cycle race being in town and went all out. There were the standard speeches and rider presentations then at the end some dancers, drums and singing. It was definitely a warm welcome.
Our first stage race was the Tour of Chongming Island. It was the first World Tour stage race of the season and also in history since 2016 is the first year with the Women’s World Tour system.
The island was pretty much pan flat with the QOM sprints featuring on motorway bridges. The racing was fast on wide roads for the majority of the 3 days of racing. The field of riders was also very different with the addition of Asian teams. I personally thought it was more sketchy with these riders as I don’t think they were used to road racing and being in a tight knit bunch. Riders were flicking from left to right without any indication. Then randomly screaming which made the atmosphere tense at times. Our sprinter finished 4th on the first stage and 2nd overall U23 which was a great result for the team.
After the Tour of Chongming had finished we were soon on our way to the next race. Everything was organised by the race from the moment we landed in Shanghai; from taking us to the hotel, to the transfer between races. It was very efficient and well arranged. A coach journey and ferry later, we arrived on Zhoushan Island for another 3 day stage race. This island was completely different. It gave me more of an understanding as to what real China is like. It was more rural with people out and about working. The landscape was a lot hillier and personally I liked it better. It had more character about it. The racing began and was very active with attacks. Our team leader was Nicole Brandli so we protected her when ever we could. The race stayed together and ended in a bunch sprint. After a good solid effort of myself and Abby helping to lead out our sprinter, it simply wasn’t our day and she didn’t have the legs in the final metres. The following days again we made sure the race was aggressive in favour of our leader. She broke away with 2 others finishing 3rd on the stage and also eventually 3rd overall too so the team was very happy.
I can round up my first trip to China as a great experience and loved seeing another completely different culture. But as a whole I was very happy to be back in Europe to normality.