A month ago I was given the chance to race The Qiansen Trophy Cup – two C1 UCI Cyclocross races in China. On August 27th a group of 9 of us, 6 racers and 3 staff members, flew halfway across the world to Beijing. It was an experience I will never forget.
By the time we arrived at our hotel it was around 5pm on Sunday the 28th. What was two days easily felt like one extremely long day. Ninety-five racers from over 15 countries were all staying at the same hotel having breakfast, lunch and dinner together for 7 days. It was like bike racer summer camp or as I would like to think, a dream come true!!
On Monday we had a group field trip to the Great Wall of China. Beijing is known to be smoggy and have terrible air quality conditions, but luckily for 99% of our trip the skies were blue and filled with puffy clouds. Later that day we would roll to the course and pre ride, getting ourselves and our bikes dialed in for the next day of racing. For most of us, this was our first cx race of the season.
Tuesday morning went like any other pre race morning. Meal planning, final bike prep and nervous jitters were all in attendance. After a final visit to the lunch buffet, we all headed over to the course. One side of the start/finish was lined with blue tents, with every team having their own tent and about 5 photographers per racer. I have never seen so much paparazzi. It was exciting, and helped to give us confidence that we belonged there.
It was hot that day with temperatures in the 80s. At least 75% of the course was in shade with a breeze which offered a little relief from the heat. One last lap on the course to dial in lines and we all retired to the tent to keep cool before call ups. There were 30 women racers and I was lucky number 30. Last call up. It gave me some relief because you can only move up when you are last. Three minutes before start, I was nervous. You spend all spring and summer training for the upcoming season and until those first few races happen, you have no idea how much that training is going to improve your performance on the race course in an actual race. When your first 2 races of the season are your first ever C1 UCI races and they are in China against women from all over the world, your mind is melting on the start line and your legs are shaking like leaves. Thirty seconds. Focus sets in and the next thing you know you are moving forward and you are doing the only thing that felt normal for the entire trip – racing your bike.
I would finish 15th that day earning myself a point to qualify for Nationals. I was beyond stoked. That night and the next morning we would pack up to move to another hotel on the other side of Beijing to race again on Saturday at a different venue.
Friday morning a group of us checked out the race course early so we could spend the afternoon being tourists in downtown Beijing. It was pretty phenomenal. Unfortunately none of us were willing to be too daring when it came to some of the foods so it was mostly just “ooh”ing and “ahh”ing while doing what most tourists do – taking photos.
I felt a little more confident in myself come Saturday morning, and my third row call up instead of dead last didn’t hurt either. It was another hot day and the course was dustier than the last with over 60 turns in one lap. I always questioned my ability to corner well and with this only being my 4th year racing cyclocross, I am still trying to figure out my strong suits. Apparently tight, twisty courses are not my enemy because I finished 13th this day getting myself 4 more points.
That night we would again pack up our things, our bikes and get ready to shuttle out at 7am the next morning. That last night was the farewell banquet for all of the racers and staff who made the trip. The banquet was filled with interesting yet delicious food, lots of alcohol, awards, entertainment and of course it wouldn’t be complete without a teenage garage band playing Nirvana and The Ramones covers. Obviously we started a mosh pit for them with crowd surfing because why not (Sorry for the lack of photos).
China was a success. The Qiansen Trophy Cup staff was amazing. My teammates for the trip couldn’t have been better and I can’t thank Jakroo enough for giving me the opportunity. I can’t wait to see you all again next year and I promise to bring enough coffee for everyone 😉