Director — Eki
Soigneurs (ass rubbers) — Kurt Van Roosbroeck and Vincent Monserez
Mechanics — Jeanick Verstrate and I
Team Doctor — Peter Lagru
Translator — Sharon or by her Chinese name which is Shizhe — A Xining local (Phonetically: Shuh-jew-ahh)
I originally got my flight schedule and saw that I was to fly into Peking China and would be there for a day. Then, the following day we were to fly to Xining where the race would start. I looked on my world map to find Peking and could not. I did not look very hard. I would learn the location when I got there. I really don’t know much about China even though I have done the (Tour du Pont version of the) Tour of China back in 1995. That year we were in the big markets such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhau and Hong Kong to name a few. This race will be in much smaller cities.
I left Sacramento on July 5th at 8:00 PM to fly to LAX and landed at about 9:20 PM. My next flight to Peking was at 1:40 AM on the morning of the 6th. My schedule said I was flying on China Air but I was walking past Air China. So, I ask at the desk if they are the same and they tell me no. They say there are both Air China AND China Air. Crazy!! I say that I am going to Peking and she tells me this is the correct place and the Beijing Flight is at 1:40 AM. I try to repeat that I’m going to Peking. Again she tells me I am on the correct airline/flight to Beijing flight which is also Peking. That was Chinese lesson # 1 Beijing was/is known to the western world as Peking.
I meet up with Antonio Cruz and John Devine at LAX for our flight to (Peking) Beijing. We land in Beijing at 6:00 AM. July 7th. John had the hard travel. He went from Chicago to LAX (5 hour flight), layover in LAX (8 hours), flight to Beijing (13 hours 20 min) and the drive to the hotel (30 minutes). And we were not in Xining yet. Even worse was that he went to China Air and stood in line for an hour to finally get to an agent who said “terminal 2 — Air China” when he asked for the Peking flight. Bummer.
The three of us were supposed to have hotel rooms waiting for us upon arrival. We (the team) were to pay a half day rate for getting into the rooms in the morning. But they said the rooms were not ready yet. No biggie. We went for a casual breakfast while the rooms were being cleaned.
My goal is to stay up as late as possible on the first two nights to basically force myself into the current time zone. It’s now almost 10:00 AM and we are checked into our rooms. I decide to go for a walk. Later, I meet up with John and Antonio at a local mall. They are looking for electronics so we take a taxi to a place that the hotel concierge said was good. A big electronics store. There we find a very lop sided staff ratio. There has to be MORE than 70 staff at this store. We walk into the computer section and it is the three of us and two other customers with 15 sales staff. I then go to the phone section only to be bombarded by THREE staff. WUWT # 1 (What’s up with that?)
We leave the store to return to the hotel and Antonio decides to check out the enclosed three wheel motorcycle taxis to take him to the hotel. Apparently it took twice as long as we did to go the hotel and it was only 3 or 4k. John and I decided on a regular taxi and ask one to take us. In Chinese ONLY he starts yelling words that I had no clue. He gestured with hand signals to the elevated walk way and to the taxis on the other side of the road. Apparently he did not want to flip a U-turn with the road divided by a median. WUWT # 2
It’s almost 2:00 PM and the rest of the team arrives from the Paris flight. All except Eki who would arrive a few days later. Trek China is helping our team here and they take us to a local Chinese restaurant for lunch. The waitress even shows us the fish we are to have. It is still flopping because they just took it out of the tank. What a true treat to have such an awesome Chinese meal. Everyone was excited.
We all go for walks in small groups. Later Trek China takes us to a pub for a Tour de France kick of party to watch preview clips and later the prologue TT. The prologue would be on well after midnight so we head back to the hotel at about 10:00 or so. And then straight to the hotel bar to have some wine. Chechu joins us for one glass and off to bed right after. Three bottles of wine later and it is well past 1:00 AM. It’s basically been almost 19 hours of travel, 38 hours since I left Sacramento and 51 hours since my last pillow. OK I slept a little on the plane (OK a lot) but that is not real sleep/rest. I’m totally dead and fall asleep well before my head hits the pillow. We are 15 hours ahead of California time zone!!
It’s now the morning of the 8th and we are flying to Xining. The Relax/Gam team is on our flight also. We land and are greeted by some of the race personnel who give us a white silk scarf. It is a Tibetan cultural item called Hada. There are white, blue, red, yellow and green ones. Blue stands for sky. Red stands for a Tibetan God. Yellow stands for the ground/earth. Green stands for rivers and lakes. And last but not least a White one stands for clouds and purity (and is the most common one). Hada has different meanings according to different occasions. A white one at weddings expresses forever love wishes between the two (getting married). A white one at funerals means remembering the dead. Upon meeting new people (as we were greeted at the airport) a white one was given to us meaning a warm welcoming.
We unload our stuff in the gym room (gym equipment moved aside) for the next few days. We will be here until Thursday morning when we move to the race hotel. The race starts on Saturday so almost a week to get acclimated to time and altitude. We put all the bikes together and only two guys go for a ride. Most opt for an easy transition to our now 2,200 meter (7,200 feet) location. The altitude will be a big factor. We will often climb past 3,400 meters (11,000 feet) and the Cima Copa (borrowing the Giro D’Italia term for highest point in the race) is 3,880 meters or about 12,700 feet. Fuck that is going to be tough!!
We have a translator named Sharon. All teams have a translator assigned to them to help out. Sharon’s Chinese name is Shizhe. Her nickname is Quin Quin (Phonetically: Shin Shin) which means traveler. Before she was born her parents moved many times. So, her Grandfather on her dads side gave her this nickname.
Shopping and walking around is a daily ritual in the days before the race. With training taking up only a few hours and we are not washing bikes, there is a bit of extra free time. We are walking maybe a K or so away from the hotel and we see a huge pile of race bikes. Bikes from the Whirlpool team (Czech republic) and the Fidea team (Belgian cross team) all parked. Directly in front of the Kentucky Fried Chicken. Apparently it’s lunch time.