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China's squad pedal to glory
By Zhao Rui (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-02-18 08:53

There was a bumper harvest in 2004 for Chinese woman cyclist Jiang Yonghua and her coach Wang Yongqing despite missing out a gold medal at the Athens Olympics.

However, the Cycling and Fencing Administrative Centre, the governing body of China's competitive cycling, has started to draw up a new four-year project for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, aiming at going for gold.

In the velodrome of Athens, years of hard-training gave Jiang a satisfactory award when she seized a silver medal of the Women's 500-metre Time Trial from her powerful foreign rivals - the best-ever result a Chinese cyclist achieved in Olympic history.

The 31-year-old Jiang, who has kept the 500-metre Time Trial world record of 34.000 second since 2002 World Cycling Championships, had a dream start this year as she rode to a silver medal in the World Cycling Championships in Manchester, receiving an Olympic entry ticket for China.

Jiang continued her form, but luck was not on her side. She achieved a time of 34.112 seconds, her personal best of the past two years, and broke the Olympic record, ranking No 1 ahead of two major title contenders Natallia Tsylinskaya of Belarus and Nancy Contreras of Mexico before Anna Meares of Australia came to the track.

The 19-year-old Australian then managed an unexpected 33.952 seconds to claim the gold medal. She also beat Jiang's world record.

"I have cycled to my best level this time, so there is nothing for me to regret," said Jiang.

Jiang's silver medal makes a historic breakthrough for China, a country with over 400 millions bicycles.

But it is another story for the other five Chinese cyclists at the Athens Olympics, who left empty handed and always looked like outsiders among the powerful European and Australian cyclists.

Zhu Yongbiao, the best mountain cyclist in China, finished 42nd out of 50 and Wo Kam Po of Hong Kong clinched 20th place in the men's points race.

On the women's side, mountain cyclist Ma Yanping reached the top 20 with a 17th while Qian Yuanjuan and Zhang Lianying, both participating in the women's road race, ranked 44th and 47th respectively. Another Track rider, Li Meifang, took 14th position at the women's 24-kilometre points race.

Gold target

The breakthrough at the Athens Olympics has gone down in history as the centre has set up new targets for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

China's squad will try to receive eight to ten entry tickets for the Beijing Olympics, and will seek to march into the final eight in two or three events and break the blank record of gold, according to Cai Jiadong, director of China Cycling Association.

The Women's 500-metre Time Trial and Pursuit will continue to be the medal winning points for the team with Jiang Cunhua clinching a bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and Jiang Yonghua pocketing the silver in Athens.

However, the squad is set to face difficult years as two veterans are too old while the teens are still too young.

For the two Jiangs, 30 and 31 respectively, it is a great challenge to keep themselves in ideal form for the next four years, but their coaches both expressed their confidence in competing in the Beijing Olympics.

"Jiang Cunhua has trained very hard this year as she took five physical lessons a week and also conducted a series of directed training sessions," said Li Hongxin, Jiang's coach. "She is in a satisfactory condition now but she still has a big space in which to improve."

While compatriot Jiang Yonghua, who suffered from knee and wrist injuries before the Olympics, already aims at this year's Tenth National Games.

"This is just a beginning for me and Jiang," said her coach Wang Xueqing.

"She just started the systematic training and I have strong confidence that she will break the her record at the upcoming National Games."

As for the young cyclists in the squad, whose results are still not competitively ranked, Tian Junrong, vice-director of the centre, said it is not a dream to lift the teens to the world top class.

"We can do it as long as we grasp advanced training methods, " said a confident Tian.

Overall improvement

The success in the Athens Olympics could be attributed to the increasing domestic interests and investment.

The China's biggest cycling race, Tour de Qinghai Lake, has stepped into its third year in Qinghai province. Eleven professional teams participated in the race. With the support of Qinghai Provincial Government, the nine-day-long race has been promoted from 2.5-category to 2.3 by the International Cycling Union (UCI), becoming the top cycling race in Asia.

In the home cycling fiesta, China's road cyclists performed at a good level in 2003 as Wang Guozhang, China's No 1 road rider, posted third in the individual rankings and China's team ranked fifth in team standings.

However, as the race is upgraded this year with more formidable European professional cyclists, Chinese riders have seen a big gap with their foreign counterparts as Wang fell to a 11th place while the team only took a ninth position.

To enhance China's road cyclists in an all-around scale, Cai has announced the association will set up China's first professional team in cooperating with Marco Polo of Holland this year.

The team will have eight to ten Chinese riders and one Chinese coach and the members are expected to have more opportunities to train and compete in European races.


As Cycling is developing at an unprecedented speed in China, drugs have started to affect the sport in China.

A Chinese cyclist, Liang Chuanliang, was found positive in a drug test last November, according to Chinese Olympic Committee's anti-doping commission.

The 22-year-old Liang, a silver medallist at the Ninth National Games as well as the training partner of Jiang Yonghua, is expected to be banned for at least two years and a fined up to an estimated US$10,000.

Drug scandal invaded the most-renowned cycling race, Tour de France, in 1998 as nine riders and team officials from Festina and TVM were found to be usingdrugs. How to keep drugs out of cycling here will also be a major challenge for the association.

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