China and cycling, a historic oxymoron
A national calendar devastated by the health crisis
Over the past two decades, China has gradually embarked on the construction of a broad continental calendar. To become a world pole of cycling, you still need to first take the reins of your sport on the scale of your region. Thus were born many national events, mixing local champions with a cohort of exiles. Regularly, the most prestigious of them managed to attract teams from the European Second Division, looking for UCI points and a slightly more open field. For those who had lost their taste for victory by joining the professional ranks, China had become El Dorado.
Thus arose the Towers of China I and II, the Taihu Lake Tower, the Hainan Tower, or even the Qinghai Lake Tower, the longest of them. All these races were violently destroyed by COVID-19 in 2020. Only the last of them, aided by its regional prestige, managed to recover. If its trace in history was quickly erased, a few high names are, however, on the list. Thus, long before Tadej Pogacar was martyred on Mount Ventoux, Jonas Vingegaard climbed the podium of the Tour of China I 2016. As for Fausto Masnada and Gino Mäder, they cut their teeth fighting for the search for the Tour of China. Hainan 2018.
Closing China’s access to the World Tour
This international dynamic even triumphed with the creation of a World Tour event in China: the Gree – Tour of Gangxi, organized from 2017 to 2019. Last chance to get valuable UCI points for teams in danger of relegation or on the way to the ascent, the Chinese race has never won the heart of the runners, but has been offered prestigious winners. In three years, Enric Mas, Tim Wellens and Gianni Moscon have climbed to the top of the podium. Now it looks like this radiation has passed.
A limited reputation in Asia
In addition, this influence is not offset by the emergence of local world champions. So far, only Cheng Ji has set his wheels on the Tour de France, during the 2014 edition. Marcel Kittel’s “getaway hunter” had then been the subject of numerous reports on Chinese television, tempting through he to democratize this sport in the country. . Unfortunately, his 10 years of professional career (2007 – 2016), spent with the Dutch team Shimano and sending him to tour the three Great Tours and the five Monuments, did not create emulators.
In the UCI nation rankings, China only appears in the anonymous 57e place, with 100 times less points than Belgium, Princess of the Queen. Since Meiyin Wang, who moved to Bahrain Merida between 2017 and 2019, the Middle Kingdom no longer has soldiers on the World Tour, not even on the Continental Pro. This total absence of Chinese professional pilots even causes the country’s repeated absence at the start of the World Cup and the Olympics. The China Glory Cycling project hopes to address this issue quickly.
China Glory Cycling, a well thought out pot
China Glory Cycling, a Chinese choir framed by a body of foreigners.
In fact, this small third division team has both local and international cyclists – six per side. If the former are totally unknown for their sport, the latter, on the other hand, have slightly higher names. Indeed, without benefiting from the fame of European training, the team undertook to recruit runners without a contract, neglected by the managers of the Old Continents.
In this troop of survivors of the professional world, we find in particular two former World Tour attendants: the South African Wilie Smit (Katusha) and the American Sean Bennett (EF Pro Cycling). The latter is also the author of the greatest feat of this young team, reaching the top 10 of the Tour of Turkey last April. On the French side, we also find Marseille’s Lucas de Rossi, who played for Delko between 2016 and 2021. This balance between nationals and foreigners is even a founding pillar of the team. ” We will go from twelve to twenty runners, with eight Chinese. We want to maintain an international dimension “he explained to good morning the Saint-Jeannois Amaël Moinard, co-director of the formation.
Chinese team, European staff
In fact, in terms of runners, the Chinese state also went to choose its staff abroad, in search of experience and knowledge. The 11 Tours de France of the former lieutenant of Cadel Evans at the BMC then perfectly met these criteria. Recently retired from the peloton, the Cherbourg native then found the perfect opportunity to start his career change. On his way, he even teamed up with Dutchman Maarten Tjallingii (3e of Paris – Roubaix 2021), located in a similar personal situation.
In addition, the Franco-Dutch tandem has returned to Europe to complete its team of sporting directors, through Lionel Marie. Accredited professional in this exercise, who has worked for many high-level teams (Cofidis, Orica – Greenedge, Israel Start Up Nation), the chin has also got on the bandwagon. Also, this is not his first time going crazy. In 2015, he had already accepted an offer from Torku Sekerspor, a modest Turkish continental team.
Gathered in this project, these staff with international backgrounds aim to transmit their know-how to their protégés, disseminating the European practice of the discipline. In fact, the Chinese delay in the field encouraged them to invite Chinese runners to a progress course in the Nice region, and they intend to repeat the experience. Therefore, participation in such races is directly integrated into this scheme of access to the highest level.
China Glory Cycling, the Olympics in perspective
To tell the truth, from the abyss of road cycling, the Chinese state intends to climb directly to the heights. The team’s top partner, in fact, hopes to replicate the success of their track program, now rewarded with gold charms. In a model similar to the one described here, the hiring of foreign experts, such as Theo Bos, five-time world champion in the field, had allowed Chinese stars to conquer the first step of the podium. If progress is slow for the men’s side, women have gained unquestionable supremacy in the team sprint, winning gold medals in 2016 and 2020 after winning silver in 2012.
So on the road, China intends to enjoy similar success. If China Glory is still in the stage of discovering the professional world, the announced margin of progress is immense. On the official website of the training, the leaders declare that their goal is access to the 2024 Olympic Games and participation in the 2025 Tour. In view of its exponential growth in sports, the Middle Kingdom it is certainly capable of achieving this in the long run. State investment to democratize this discipline among the new generations is surely the key to success. Will China then be able to reproduce its hegemonic ping-pong conquest by bicycle?