Editor’s Note: Gregg Bleakney will be photographing October’s Tour of Beijing for VeloNews.com. He recently returning from scouting out the race route in China as a guest of the organizers and the UCI.
BEIJING (VN) — Three hours after arriving from Europe to Beijing I was ushered in a white Mercedes van from my hotel to a mystery dinner location in the city center. After edging through 20 kms of traffic, the driver pulled into an alleyway, exited the van, and began gesturing aggressively at a sinewy security official guarding a small gate. The heated exchanges continued for 15 minutes before he hopped back in the driver’s seat, uttered some choice Chinese profanities, rolled the van forward 15 feet, looked over his shoulder and said,”OK, we here now.” The van’s rear passenger door slid open and there it was: the culinary star of Beijing’s foodie scene and my dining establishment for the evening: Chef Dong’s Braised Sea-Cucumber and Roast Duck Restaurant.
Seated in a private dining hall in the restaurant’s second floor was not only the chef himself, but two round tables full of Chinese officials who, over the past six months, have been intensely focused on one objective: organizing the Tour of Beijing.
Over the next few days, I pre-rode the time trial course, photographed sections of stages 2, 3, and 5, and dropped into Beijing’s thriving bike culture scene via @bikebeijing, which includes a growing mass of both fixed gear hipsters and cash-rich Beijingites eager to blow as much RMB as necessary to pick up the latest high-end carbon frames and swag from abroad. I also met with endless layers of race organizing officials who were keen on making one thing clear: the Chinese are taking the Tour of Beijing very seriously.
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