China s National Cycling team faces first WorldTour test

At the opening ceremony of the 2011 Tour of Beijing Asia s inaugural and only UCI WorldTour event 18 of the world s best professional cycling teams took turns stepping onto a glittering stage for their introduction. A 19th team entered the room on a wave of pumping music, lights and adoration China s National Cycling team, welcome to the big time

Watching chopstick-wielding European pro cyclists good-naturedly fumble their way through the decadent 20-course Chinese banquet provided an indication that this WorldTour race was different. But the entrance of China s National team onto the stage served as a vivid reminder even with the compulsorily sponsor-free national team clothing that cycling is becoming more global.

Experienced cycling commentators will no doubt be watching the local rider s performance closely not only in athletic, but also tactical and technical aspects to assess just how much further this once-reknowned Bicycle Kingdom may need to develop in order to stake a place in the top-ranked global cycling nations. The test begins tomorrow, with a 11.3km individual time trial loop that fittingly traverses parts of Olympic Park.

A city that is proactively in the international sports scene, Beijing really showed it s true colours with the organisation of an extremely professional edition of the Summer Olympic Games. Over the next five days, China will once again be in the international spotlight as the world s great cyclists take us on a journey through the region of Beijing. From the Bird s Nest Olympic Stadium to Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace to the Great Wall. What we re about to experience is the result of many many months of hard work.

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Perhaps, in delivering this closing sentence of his address to the throng of athletes, government officials, media and volunteers gathered at Beijing s National Convention Center, UCI president Pat McQuaid might also have been referring to the preparation of China s National Cycling team. Let s wait and see.

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