BEIHAI, China (VN) —The Tour of Guangxi that starts Thursday in South China is good for the country and good for cycling globally, say cyclists gathered for the stage race.
The race marks China’s re-entry into the top-level UCI WorldTour since the Tour of Beijing ceased in 2014.
“Our team’s Australian and because we race most of our time in Europe, it’s good to have that connection,” Australian Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) said. “It’s good for China and it’s good for the sport of cycling here in this country.”
“It’s always nice to share our sport in the entire world,” Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) said.
Most of the 121 cyclists competing, a list that includes Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step) and Mikel Landa (Sky), arrived two days ago. After the rainstorms fell in China’s lush southeast corner Wednesday morning, they trained on the roads around Beihai. For many, including Alaphilippe and Ewan, it was their first time riding in China since the Tour of Beijing.
“This morning … there was a child [who was] 12 years old riding on a scooter right next to us with a huge smile and just loved seeing us on our bikes,” Alaphilippe added. “He had a big smile on his face and it’s an inspiration for him.
“I love traveling and you don’t see something like this in France or any other country. I think this race is good for the sport, good for the country, and I think we feel really welcome here and you can feel that.”
China, however, has struggled to bridge to Europe with its crop of stars. Unable to race at a high level, making a jump to the WorldTour seems almost impossible and few have succeeded.
Cheng Ji raced through 2016 for team Giant-Alpecin, now known as Sunweb. Meiyin Wang (Bahrain-Merida) is the only Chinese rider currently on a WorldTour team. The rest race in the Continental division.
“Yes, I am surprised really because I thought it would be a big peloton of Chinese riders,” Alaphilippe added. “But you know at a WorldTour race there are not that many Chinese riders. I figure it’s something special for [Wang] and I hope he does enjoy it, and I hope that he has a great result here.”
Ewan noted that he thinks the race will help cycling in China, “and I hope so. It’s really growing here and I heard over the last five years, cycling in China has gone through the roof. Hopefully, it keeps going like that. Hopefully, cycling becomes more of a global sport than more of just a European one.”
Wang laughed when asked if he felt the weight of China’s 1.38 billion citizens on his shoulders.
“I don’t think that the pressure is so much, I am going to ride relaxed and follow the team’s orders,” Wang said. “For me, it’s just a race and I don’t have additional stress.
“The Tour of Guangxi is very important for China, especially for the Chinese fans. Everyone is excited to see high-level races come back to China after a few years ago. The organizer has done hard work to show what China can do to the rest of the world. The Tour of Guangxi is very important for the organizer and China.”