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Gearing up to turn pedals into medals

By SHI FUTIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2018-09-12 09:38
Wang Meiyin is the lone Chinese rider competing in the Tour of Guangxi next month. [Photo/VCG]

China is the world's No 1 producer of bicycles and boasts the largest number of daily riders, but the nation still lags far behind the global pack when it comes to competitive cycling.

The Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region last year embraced the Tour of Guangxi, part of the UCI World Tour, with more than 100 top international riders representing 18 teams in the 940-km race. It marked the first World Tour event in China since the Tour of Beijing, which ran from 2011-14.

The absence of the sport's top tour competition was another obstacle on the bumpy road of professional cycling's development in the nation, but on Monday organizers announced the return of the race to five cities of Guangxi from Oct 16-21.

A total of 18 top international teams will compete, including big names like Bahrain-Merida, Team Sky and Lotto-Soudal-the latter of which includes 2017 winner Tim Wellens.

"Last year's Tour of Guangxi received great feedback from the UCI and all the riders and teams, and provided a great opportunity for Chinese cycling fans to watch a top-level race, which in turn opened a window of opportunity for the nation's cycling development," said Shen Jinkang, president of the Chinese Cycling Association.

Next month's race will be held on a revised route aimed at ensuring tighter competition.

"Based on the last year's route, we've made many adjustments to guarantee a more fascinating visual feast for spectators and the TV audience," said Yang Dongwei, CEO of Wanda Sports, co-organizer of the event.

"The competition will not only be a showcase of the world's top riders, but also a chance to show the world the beauty of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary."

Xie Qiang, deputy director of Guangxi sports bureau, added: "Guangxi has been making sports development one of its priorities, and the first edition of the race showed the world its picturesque view and socio-economic achievements.

"The success of the Tour of Guangxi has significant influence on local sports development. It's a milestone. There's still a month before the race, and we will make full preparations based on last year's experience. Also, we are planning a series of associated activities for the public in order to help cycling development and the national fitness program."

Although China won six gold medals, five silver and two bronze at last month's Asian Games in Jakarta, homegrown riders account for barely a blip in the pro ranks.

Wang Meiyin, who rides for Bahrain-Merida, was the lone Chinese entrant in Guangxi last year, and he will be the only one again this year, according to organizers.

For Wang, the high-profile event represents a giant step for Chinese cycling-but he stresses patience.

"The tour of Guangxi is very important for China, especially for Chinese fans," said Wang. "Everyone is excited to see high-level races come back to China and the organizers have worked hard to show what we can contribute to the rest of the world.

"But we need to show patience. The first step is to bring more high-level races here. It gives people a close-up opportunity to experience the thrill of cycling."

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