Champion System pro cycling team, the first UCI Professional Continental team to be registered in China, launched in Beijing last week. This was the international media’s first opportunity to tap into the underlying proposition that Asia has emerged as a serious professional cycling region.
In spite of the team’s dominant Hong Kong and US roots, launching in China’s capital was logical in its symbolism. A press room at Laoshan velodrome’s ‘Athlete’s Hotel of Cycling and Fencing Centre’ (Shijingshan District) filled with local media, team members and equipment sponsors; though the front row was reserved for representatives from China’s Cycling Association. Nearby, UCI Track World Cup practice sessions were underway.
Persistent sub-zero temperatures weren’t conducive to pre-season fitness, so the team left for training camp in Hainan after launch formalities concluded; but not before riders embarked on a 70km training ride, which concluded alongside the Great Wall. Following, is a brief photographic timeline of the team’s three-day stay in Beijing. A full report of the launch will feature in the next issue (#55) of RIDE Cycling Review.
As Chinese riders (L to R) Xu Gang, Pendga Jiao and Biao Liu, walk towards the Champion System press conference on launch day...
...members of the British track squad leave the building, enroute to the velodrome for practice sessions.
Jan Kirsipuu ponders his next move
Hong Kong Cycling's Coach Shen addresses the audience. MC John Eustice looks on, patiently.
Cyclowired Japan's Yuko Sato kneels amongst the press ranks; perhaps wondering if Coach Shen would ever stop talking.
Chris Lintaman, VP of Advanced Sports International (parent of Fuji Bikes) discusses Fuji's partnership with the team. ASI's sponsorship manager, Milay Galvez, awaits her turn.
In cycling, positioning is everything; Champion System aspires to move Asian riders to the front of the peloton
The press conference was followed by an official dinner - Steven Wong (HKG) surveys the table's 'Lazy Susan' whilst Aaron Kemps (AUS) checks his emails
Day 2: Pre-season medicals required by the UCI. Aaron Kemps stares into space during his ECG procedure at the Sports Hospital of Nrism, Beijing.
When not riding, a rider's boredom manifests in different ways. Joris Boillat took to team physician, Dawn Richardson's, arm with a pen.
After medicals were completed, some of the Champion System management team snuck out to watch the team pursuit at the UCI Track World Cup - conveniently, the hotel was only a 15 minute walk away - but General Manager, Ed Beamon, almost never strayed from his work the entire time.
Dinner time. Champion System founding member, Louis Shis, took the team to Da Dong; famous for its Peking Duck
The team takes an evening stroll in the heart of Beijing
Day 3. Finally, a decent ride awaits; this is the closest a uniformly stoic Xu Gang was to smiling the entire time.
Two coaches were used - one exclusively for the team's Fuji bikes - to transport the team to the training ride's start point, near Mentougou, in Beijing's west-side.
Team mechanic, Risto Usin, gives the bikes a final check prior to take-off.
Amongst the support convoy, was a Beijing Metropol S.W.A.T vehicle. Every training ride needs one.
Restless riders finally get the opportunity to do what they do best
Kin San Wu and Biao Lu (both from CHN) leading the way
Clinton Avery (NZL) adds to his photo collection
"Hey, nobody mentioned hills."
The group's numbers change inverse to the gradient's.
Jan Kirsipuu, Mart Ojavee (both of EST), and possibly, Anuar Manan (MLY), behind that glove
"Get back on, you lazy sod!"
If the season goes well, the team will next hope to pass the Great Wall during the WorldTour-ranked 2012 Tour of Beijing - some would say it's a sure thing, given the team's close connections to China.