How can Chinese riders learn about racing in Europe? By racing as much as possible. Racing ‘classic’ stages from A to B is one way. Racing criteriums or ‘kermiskoersen’ is another way to learn.
Imagine the difference between racing on big, multilane Chinese roads and racing ‘around the church’ on Dutch village streets. Obviously, the Chinese riders have to get used to that.
In Mill, The Netherlands, this Sunday, the team participated in the ‘Kasteelronde van Mill’. Around 40 laps of 2 kilometres of racing. It was the second criterium ever for the Chinese riders. “A completely different way of racing than what they are used to,” said Chinese team manager Han Feng.
Han Feng rode four years for the Dutch Skil – Shimano team and knows what his younger fellow countrymen are going through. “There are so many corners in so little distance. Positioning is super important, as well as cornering skills.”
In China, there are only a few races similar to the European criteriums. “If you look at the competitions in our home country, they are usually on big roads. Multilaners, so to say. There is always plenty of space to move up at the beginning of the race and the number of corners is usually limited.”
Maarten Tjallingii, sports director last Sunday and in the next few races, said he could see some room for improvement for the Chinese riders. Xianjing Lyu picked it up quickly, he said, but all of the Chinese need some more practice before they will be in the game. Tjallingii himself and Dutch riders Reinier Honig and Etienne van Empel have plenty of experience with racing criteriums and are eager to share their knowledge with their teammates.
Tjallingii: “Gaining experience in criteriums will only help them to perform better in the stage races that we are planning to race in the next few weeks and months. The experience we will get when it comes to positioning, cornering and reading the race are going to be very helpful. That is why we are racing in these criteriums.”
This week the team lines up in two UCI races. First China Glory Cycling competes in Belgium, in the Ruddervoorde Koers and Puivelde Koers. Those races were Tuesday and Wednesday. At the weekend the team lines up for Veenendaal-Veenendaal (Saturday) and the Antwerp Port Classic (Sunday).