Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tour de Wiggo

Friday: Waiting for Arno


Crossing the border at Lok Ma Chau seemed like a world away from the Tour de France, and the historic exploits of Mr Wiggins and Team Sky, but somewhere in China, there are some pretty amazing roads that seemed worthy of our own little tribute to Wiggo & Co, with 2 days of epic riding planned to celebrate Le Tour 2012. Of course, you can't beat a good old Chinlish typo to know you're in China. And no sooner had we crossed the border than our new driver friend greeted Aron (who booked the trip), Mark and I with a nice A4 sheet with 'Arno' written on it. 




















A few hours drive to Heyuan later and we arrived at our hotel, where we promptly checked out the 'Blazing' nightclub (aka KTV lounge) before settling down for the night. At this point I realised I'd lost my Garmin 705, iPhone charger and plug adapters. Great!

















Saturday: Maillot Tutu


We set off in baking heat, to see what this area had to offer the intrepid cyclist. Garminless, I joked with Aron that he could be pretty confident of taking the Strava KOMs around here... 


















As temperatures soared to an unforgiving 36+ degrees, we battled away on some pretty rolling (sometimes unbuilt) roads. Certainly we haven't seen another white face since we left Shenzhen, and we seemed to be quite the novelty. 



















This was especially born out at lunch, where we managed to find some random newly built empty hot spring hotel in the middle of nowhere. The girls who served us were very keen to chat and pose with bicycles. As ever, Aron was very keen to practice his Mandarin and left with a couple of new additions to his fan club.
























Given the weekend was meant to represent some sort of Wiggo fest, with today being the penultimate day of the Tour, we were on the look out for sideburns and yellow jerseys. We were unable to find any whiskers to give the girls in Blazing nightclub, but Aron did find this maillot tutu- 30 RMB only!


















Today's ride turned out to be more of an homage to Paris Roubaix than Le Tour, with some pretty intense road surfaces, but what you give up in road surfaces we more than made up for in scenes of an increasingly forgotten China.























One especially cool place we found was a Hakka village, where Mark did his best to pretend he was getting his pre-wedding photos done...



























... and Aron practiced his cyclocross skills.
























This was rounded off by a fairly amusing Mandarin conversation where Aron was trying to distinguish how to pronounce Panda, rather than chest hair with a shop owner and her son. At this point I showed the child my rather more substantial chest hair, to which said child shreeked a big 'Wah' and ran away!




















140km later, and we were back in the sh*t hole that is Heyuan, reminded of lose-lose situation for your average rural Chinese. Either toil on the land in the middle of nowhere, where it might be beautiful, but you will be exceptionally poor. Or move to the cities and work equally hard in a haze of pollution and earn marginally more money. Evidently more have chosen the latter. 



















Ok, well less of the 'bumf", and on with the story. Having persuaded Aron and Mark to come for a foot massage, Aron got on with the business of chatting up my Sichuan masseur, having scored a bloke himself. This landed up with Aron's first  proposal of marriage. From the Sichuan girl! We rounded off the night with the last bit of Wiggo TT glory on a dodgy internet connection, before hitting the hay.


Sunday: Not the Champs Elysees


















The crowning glory in our homage to Mr Wiggins was meant to be a new route variant on the Nankunshan Epic from last year, including a very juicy looking road alongside a lake that looked like it would take us to lunch, from which we could launch an assault on some of the more established roads that have drawn us up to this part of the world in the past.

















And juicy the roads were- look at that freshly laid tarmac! Rolling was not the word for this 75km of near Chinese road riding nirvana- think climb, descend, repeat. Again, and again. Having climbed a solid 1300m without going over any mountains, the legs were feeling it, but we were having too much fun to stop.

















However, stop we did, once it became apparent that we were facing some navigational challenges.



















Aron's best attempts at mountain biking on a road bike still didn't lead us to the road we wanted to be on, and having been told by some Chinese bamboo farmers that the road didn't exist and we had to turn back, we decided to jump in our car and get some petrol assistance to get us to lunch.




















The petrol assistance soon turned into somewhat of a hindrance, when  hours later we were trying to guide the rather un-4x4 Buick over some roads that had were more suited to a Land Rover than a people carrier. When said people carrier started to smell of petrol after running aground on the rocks we started to worry some more.




















But as is the way on these things, nothing ventured, nothing gained. China is not France, and you have to accept that, even if it means spending your afternoon in a car, when you'd rather be riding. Somewhere in there is a fantastic 2 day point to point ride. We just didn't manage it this time. Still, we lived to tell the tale, and more importantly, I was home in time to witness Wiggins wearing yellow lead Cav out in the Rainbow stripes on the Champs Elysees for what must go down as the greatest moment in British cycling history.


















Luckily there are no Chinese trucks in Paris at this time of year.