Tours of Hainan & Qinghai Lake, professional cycling in China
This year’s Tour de Qinghai Lake international road cycling race, held on the "roof of the world" – northwest China’ s Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, is not an exception.
As the 12-day event runs to its end, none of the 21 Chinese riders has been able to pedal into the elite group of jersey competition leaders except that China’s Jiang Kun kept the blue jersey as Asia’s best rider for a while after the first stage..
As of Friday, Iranians and east Europeans dominated the top ranks among the 147 riders from four UCI pro-continental teams, 12 UCI continental teams and five national Olympic teams.
Observers said China needed to develop professional cycling in a bid to transform amateur riders into world-class competitors.
Qiu Jijin, a UCI International Commissaire, said veteran Chinese riders performed poorly in this year’s Qinghai Lake race and, in contrast, a couple of young riders managed to draw attention. But all in all, the performance of Chinese riders is not stable and lags far behind professionals from abroad.
A Chinese Olympic team member said the Chinese team gathered at Xining, capital of Qinghai Province, about a week before the race, only to find many of the foreign teams had been training in the high-altitude city, with an average elevation of 2,000 meters, for more than a week.
"The Chinese team is composed of riders from across the country who have few chances to cooperate with each other," said the rider who declined to be named. "We don’t have professional teams for medical and mechanical support either."
But what young Chinese riders lamented most is having scare opportunities to participate in international events.
Unlike the foreign professionals who were immersed in a string of events, most Chinese cyclists compete only in the annual Tour de Qinghai Lake and Tour of Hainan Island races.
"For some, it is already a challenge to finish the tour, not to say competing for jersey shirts," the young rider said.
Jiang Kun, 21, is the best performing Chinese rider so far, with a third-place finish in the first stage of this year’s 1,518-kilometer Tour de Qinghai Lake. But as of Friday his overall ranking has slid to 39th.
Jiang said he was bothered by lingering injuries and had pedaled poorly on mountain-climbing paths
"China was once the ‘Kingkom of Bicycles’ but it was never a power in the sport of competitive cycling," said Feng Jianping, deputy head of the Qinghai provincial sports administration.
"We have promising amateur riders. Now what we need to do is to train them into world-class heavy-weights by developing the sport of professional cycling."
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