When this season started Tour of Chongming Island was an intriguing race on the calendar. I was excited to go to China, never having traveled to any part of Asia before. Walking out of the airport doors, I wasn’t sure what I would find.
Wiggle had a very sprinty team for this race. With Jolien, Nettie, Lucy and Grace, at least one stage win was a good possibility. The first stage crash gave everyone doubts. However aside from the initial chaos and injury assessment, Jolien seemed completely unfazed by the crash, and went on to dominate the rest of the stages and the GC.
Filming at Tour of Chongming Island was fun. With a new GoPro Hero5 to use, I was confident putting a GoPro on the bikes for the first time. I’ve always hated shaky GoPro footage and never wanted to use it. But the Hero5 has image stabilisation and gives great video aboard the bikes. Having in-race footage gave a lot of depth to the videos. Seeing the team’s movement inside the peloton is super interesting. And obviously the team had a lot of fun with it too.
Each day the race organisers provided a media bus to drive us to various photo/video points on the course. The scenery on the whole was not overly exciting. The roads were wide and straight with little variation. Stage 2 took us around to four different locations. Stage 3 was a total bust. After getting stuck behind a major traffic jam at our first location, the bus eventually just turned around and went back to the finish line.
Aside from the race, China had its charms and challenges, especially when it came to the food.
The hotel restaurant was set up buffet style. The two primary tables served Chinese food, and one table in the back served bread, peanut butter, jam, and fruit. Chinese food in China is not like our westernised version of Chinese food. There is no lemon chicken or tasty delight. Breakfast on the first day already pushed beyond my comfort zone. Breakfast items included chicken intestine sausages, boiled cucumber, and black fermented eggs. I tried the egg rolls for breakfast but mostly kept to the back table, eating bread, peanut butter, and watermelon for breakfast. In fact, the one thing that everyone ate in abundance was the watermelon.
Lunch and dinner had basically the same offerings as breakfast, but they also provided fried rice and noodles. I stuck mostly to the rice, noodles and veggies at meal times. Most of the team brought their own food staples for the week: oatmeal, tuna, nuts. My stomach was a bit sketchy for a few days. For the race, it was best that the riders didn’t take any chances. By the end of the week in China, we were all ready for something else to eat. To celebrate Jolien’s victory we went into town to a Pizza Hut.
The sounds of Chongming Island would be best described by the thousands of scooters, their beep beeps and incessant alarms. The most popular means of transportation is the scooter. They have basically free reign. They also seem to have incredibly sensitive alarms. In any parking area, alarms were constantly sounding – like car alarms but even louder. Yeah.. I lost a lot of sleep.
As with anywhere you travel, it’s largely the people that create the most memorable experiences. Each team had their own private translator. Our translator was Nancy. But Nancy did so much more than translate during the week. We would have been completely lost without this angel. Available to us 24 hours a day, she helped us understand race logistics and stay on schedule, get on the right buses, helped us withdraw cash from the Chinese ATM machines. Nancy even gave the team a fun Chinese lesson (a video I have yet to edit… ). She went out with us to the Pizza Hut our final night and helped us order and pay. Then she helped the Hitec team order, who were seated at the table next to us.
After each of Jolien’s wins, Nancy was excited as we were. Our last morning in the hotel, she had a little gift for each of us. A pink tin Hello Kitty box of sweets. She cried as we said goodbye, and said she will miss us. I was teary also. New friends have been made in this far away place.
I do regret traveling all that way without being able to see downtown Shanghai or more of Chongming… but that’s race travel. Another time. China is now finished. I am writing this from a hotel lobby in San Francisco. Up next is Amgen Tour of California!
Videos from the week: