I went down to Shenzhen to take part in the 2011 Shimano Cycling Festival with two bikes in tow – a first for me! I had my Velocite Magnus road bike and an Orbea 29er mountain bike. It was manageable as I packed the road bike into the Scicon Aerocomfort Plus bag rolls very well, while the mountain bike was packed into a soft bag that I carried on my shoulders.
Originally the 2011 Shimano Cycling Festival was supposed to be held in a different location boasting a challenging 65km undulating road race in the morning followed by a circuit race in the forest park over some great trails. However, the Forest Park authorities decided to cancel the Shimano run event only five days prior the event day! It almost led to cancellation but Shimano found a nice location by the sea-side in Dapeng Village to hold the events. However, due to the short notice of the change the mountain bike events had to be run on the road. The same 7km circuit that the road race was held on in the morning. Typically, Shimano are very good with holding “real” mountain bike races with some brilliant flowing single track through ancient Chinese countryside, unlike many organizers who hold mountain bike races on the road as they are afraid for rider safety. Nonetheless, there was some exciting racing across all the categories. It was great to notice that the popularity of cycling is continuing to grow and in the intermediate ranks there were hundreds taking to the start line. Shimano’s list of bike events in China can be view on the Shimano Club Website. However, the site is only in Chinese so you might need Google to help translate it for you!
Road Race dominated by breakaways
Since the race was held on a short 7km circuit and raced around only five times, it was always going to be a fast race. With a 300m hill climbed twice each lap and a U-turn near the start finish-line meant that the elastic in the peloton would be snapped fairly easily if the pressure was applied. As usual, there was a flurry of attacks at the start and going over the first climb the peloton was lined up single file. But it bunched up again approaching the round-a-bout. It was here that a small gap was created and John Tonks (Champion System) did a surge to which I jumped onto his wheel followed by five other riders. We hammered it over the short climb and gained a big gap. We rotated fairly well to increase the gap but after a couple of laps, a motivated peloton had reeled us back in.
I had seen the pack coming up behind us and made sure I recovered enough before the catch was made so I could go with any fresh attacks. Sure enough, when the catch was made, John Tonks Champion System’s team-mate went on the attack. A perfect example of good team work. His team-mate took with him two other riders and I was able to use my explosive power to bridge across to the new breakaway that was powering away. About 30 seconds later, we were joined by John Tonks. We rolled away and this time I knew that this was the winning break as we created an even bigger gap than the first break in shorter time. A few minutes later, a hard working Zhang Li (Chinese Kung Team) bridged up to us to form a six-man breakaway. As he was coming up, he was deliberately holding back as the rest of the break were rotating. He clearly needed to recover and I let him do this for a bit before I swung off the back and drifted back to force him to move into the pace line.
With one lap to go, I thought I would try some selfish tactics and sit on at the very back of the breakaway. I was trying to come into the finish with the freshest possible legs but somehow this tactic backfired on me. It was going fine till about 1.5km to go, when a surge went and I reacted by jumping into third position but this put danger-men Zhang Li and John Tonks sitting right on my wheel. It was going to be difficult to drop behind them and use them as lead-outs. It was also an extremely windy finish. Basically I was watching the danger-men and responding to their moves. But when one of the Chinese riders attacked hard right after a surge, I chose not to chase. The others also did not react, which gave the hard-working Chinese rider a well-deserved but easy win. The Hong Kong Champion Systems rider goes on the attack to which I chase down and was in the hope that he would keep going to catch the runaway Chinese rider, but he faded and this left me out on front into the wind with about 300m remaining. What was even worse was that three very good riders were all behind me – John Tonks, Zhang Li (the perennial winner here in China) and a Neil Pryde Hong Kong rider. I was waiting for the attack as we rounded the final bend, but I was unable to respond to John Tonks super surge to the line. Both the Neil Pryde rider and Zhang Li flashed by me and I could do nothing but to finish a distant 5th. Zhang Li took the sprint for 2nd while John Tonks took 3rd.
It is difficult when you are riding solo and don’t have team-members. I did not want a repeat of what happened in Suzhou where I was worked over by riders who each had two team members in the break. This time it was only six riders in the break and I thought if I could sit on for the finale I could grab a win that I am hunting for. Perhaps I need to try some more different tactics and be more aggressive in the closing stages of a race; which is normally my trademark.
A couple of hours later, I also did the mountain bike race on the same course. A report on that will follow in my next blog post. Stay tuned!
Photos at courtesy of QQRIDE.com