361°Cup Cycling Open, China

This week SaddleDrunk guest writer is Alex telling us is amazing experience in China last weekend.Happy reading.Credits for the photos to Jennifer Carruthers.

 The Police

The Police

Sweet surprises....

It isn’t often that a spur of the moment decision, made with very little knowledge of the logistical details or potential outcomes, works out to such utter perfection. Such was the case when I was surprised by an invitation from Daniel Carruthers to travel to compete in couple of bike races in China - the

361°Cup Cycling Open in Jinjiang and the Tour de Qiandao Lake near Hangzhou.  I’d been to China for work once before, but I’d never heard of either of these places, let alone the events. I’d also never traveled outside the country for a race. In fact, it was only through a mutual friend that we made contact via email and Facebook. Other than that, I hadn’t even met Daniel in person!  So going into this, I really had no idea what to expect. And that’s what was so attractive about the proposition. It smacked of ambiguity and adventure and it was something that I just could not resist.

Due to the distance and location, travelling to Jinjiang from Austin, TX is guaranteed to be an arduous task. It doesn’t make it any easier when you show up at the airport with an expired passport! Luckily, I’d arrived a little earlier than usual and was assisted by a delayed flight arrival. This just barely gave enough time for my lovely girlfriend Katie to make the hour-plus round trip to retrieve my valid passport. That self-induced fiasco soon passed and then it was just a matter of negotiation the next three flights to

The 2014 361°Cup Cycling Open

The organizers of the 361°Cup did an absolutely superb job attending to every detail of the race.  On arrival, I was greeted at the airport by a couple of college co-eds who took  my bags and escorted me to the hotel shuttle. These volunteers, who spoke very good English, were a delight to be with. They were excited and helpful. Couldn’t have been a better way to arrive after almost 30 hrs of travel.  An hour later, I was at the hotel being greeted by several more volunteers who checked me in, took my bags and even  sat down to have lunch with me.  If I asked for anything, they sprang into action. They truly made me feel welcome.

 The following day, Friday, was scheduled to be a recon of the race course for all the teams that were competing. It was here that I began to realize the magnitude of this event. I can’t name all the countries that were there, but here’s a representative list – Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Germany, Malaysia, Serbia and many more. I had no idea there would be so many international riders competing! In fact, the CCN Team Daniel had assembled was also very cosmopolitan –Daniel is a Kiwi, Matt Boys and Trent Morey are Aussies and Gary Loafman is an Okie (In Texas, we consider Oklahomans as foreigners). This was turning out to be a big deal!

 The team 3rd position

The team 3rd position

Race day, Saturday, arrived and it was more of the same. Race start was on the open grounds of a convention center that was absolutely packed with volunteers, organizers, staff, visitors and even a bike racer or two. There were television crews, a giant sign-on board, a full on opening ceremony and what seemed like half the residents of Jinjiang in attendance. Spectators were asking for autographs and taking selfies with us.  And what made it really special was that these people were truly joyful about it!  They were very happy and very gracious, all of them!

 So how did the race unfold…. Without getting too deep into the details, our team did very well.  Matt and Trent got into the winning move on the second lap. I missed out on making the break, my mishap may have been just enough disruption to allow the break to escape. I managed to quickly remount and rejoin the peloton. Where I stayed out of trouble and finished in about 11th place out of the bunch sprint. Team leader Daniel had a very strong sprint, finishing 2 places ahead of me after having moved up some 30-40 places in the final 1km, while Gary also finished safely with our group. Impressively, Matt and Trent snagged 7th and 10th places, respectively.  With all those placings, our team claimed Third overall in the Team Classification.  Now, I’ve seen a podium or two in my day, but they were nothing like this awards ceremony. It was spectacular!  There was a processional, music, plaques, trophy, bouquets and even magnum bottles of champagne!  Like I said, it was a veritable Pro Tour level celebration.  Never in my life have I been sprayed with Champagne on a huge stage!  I'm still shaking my head at how amazing the entire day was! 

Thank you Alex.

Have a good weekend you all.

Be safe out there.

SD.