China: First ever 29er MTB event

First ever 29er Mountain Bike Event huge Success

On Xmas Day, I flew down to Guangzhou to participate in China’s inaugural 29er Mountain Bike event which I believe was a huge success and the future of the 29er here in China looks quite rosy. The event was put on by Format and sponsored by WTB. In case you did not know, WTB stands for Wilderness Trail Bikes and they are a pioneer in the mountain biking industry. It was back in 1999 when WTB first came out with the 29er tire (The Nano) before 29er bikes became popular. Now, here in China with the cycling boom that is currently happening, WTB is nicely poised to be part of China’s growth in the 29er market.

As for Format, they are a Chinese bike brand that is very active in race promotion and have been rolling out a line of 29er mountain bikes. They are looking to promote the 29er movement in China and given the success of the inaugural event, they are planning to host 15 mountain bike events in 2012 with a separate 29er category! So, the 29er trend in China has officially begun…

The Racing

It was a bit of a frantic rush for me to get my bike ready for the start of the 29er race as I had been forced to wait by the stage for a good 20minutes so I could give a three minute speech. I still had to pin my numbers, take care of other business as well as change the front tire from the WTB Vulpine 2.1 to the Nano 2.1. So after the speech, I managed to get everything ready including the all important front tire change and line up at the start line. It would not have been good to miss the start!

On the sound of the gun crack, the riders bolted for the beckoning forest up ahead on the road. I quickly moved to the front of the race and assumed the lead quite early on. I was actually putting time on my pursuers that I had over 100m lead on the second placed rider by the top of the rough forest climb. However, my MTB technical skills were quite rusty and I was caught and passed by the Niner rider after emerging from the single track section. That single-track section was actually the coolest part of the race track, it snaked its way through the forest with a sheer drop down on one side. Some places were quite dangerous including a tight bend where there were some tricky roots and if you went too quickly, you’ll get some air and land down the ravine. There was someone stationed down there just in case some one did go over the cliff! The single track angled down steeply that required some good bike handling skills to ride it. Naturally, there was a crowd of people gathered to watch the action unfold in that particular section!  I found that the Nano 2.1 front tire handled the loose trail surfaces alot better than the Vulpine 2.1 I had used at the Nanning MTB race the previous week.

After completing the first single-track section, there was a short climb before the 2km open rough downhill section. The rider who had passed me right after the single track was riding very well and put about 20-30 seconds on me on the descent. But during the second lap 4km climb, I reeled him back in and was within striking distance of passing him. I was only 10m behind at the top when we entered the single-track again. I knew that it was a mistake that I did not try and sprint to overtake him before the top of the climb as he was no where to be seen after emerging from the single track. He was out of sight. I still rode hard as I could, but without a visual ‘guide’ it was hard to gauge how fast I should be going.  By this point, I knew that I was riding for second unless he faded badly. I was happy with this result and proud to be part of China’s first ever 29er specific event and have a second placed trophy to show for it., China’s leading online cycling media website published a good selection of photographs about the WTB-Format event and also contains a video of myself being interviewed.  Also has some great photos.

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