Saturday, April 12, 2014

Winter Where Art Thou / Look Up

As the humidity and temperature rises, it is a good time to look back on the winter that passed and recap a few pictures from around town on one of the more glorious weekends. Look up!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Fresh Corima

Just arrived in time for this weekend's Tour of Hong Kong, a fresh set of lightly used Viva S's -1223 grams of goodness! First ride impressions are of a very lively wheelset - stiffer than my old Winiums and lighter / comfier than my lightly trashed 45mm deep sections, these should make for a very versatile wheelset. Thank the lords for fleabay.

Avenue of the Americas

A Gursky. For no apparent reason.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

188 / Huangshan MTB Festival

In Chinese racing, there must be few luckier numbers to pin to your jersey than 188- maybe 088 is better? But 188 should be a passage to good fortune and plentiful riches. 

Lying on the deck, having been side swiped by a kamikaze Chinese bicycle pilot who came hurtling out of nowhere to try and undertake on a cobbled corner by using his body and bike as a brake sliding across the floor, I wasn't so sure. Holding back the urge to hit him with my mini pump, a clearer mind may have deduced Chinese lucky numbers don't apply to Westerners...

Our crack Team Chiru of Pierre, Aron, Mark and I had come to Huangshan for the weekend to check out one of the biggest mountain bike races in China where we would ride the 100km marathon event. We also wanted to see a fairly remote area apparently very popular with mainland tourists, especially since the filming of crouching tiger hidden monkey, where some of the scenes were shot. Of course, the locals are pretty tuned into taxing the tourists, but look past the tat and the fake new pretending to be old and there were some pretty genuine looking old pagodas that would make for some pretty cool 'bikesandbuildings' backdrops, not to mention some lovely landscapes that provide the backdrops for many of the rather more famous classic Chinese ink paintings. Prints are of course available...

The beauty of this town and it's landscape was dulled somewhat on our arrival by the pouring rain that preceded. And we soon discovered on our late afternoon test lap that, what would no doubt be an awesome 20km XC course in the dry, had also been rather destroyed by the few hundred riders churning through there on Saturday morning's races in the heavy rain. Think mud bath so deep in places that the closest reference point I have is the cyclocross and winter cross country races held in the winter I rode as a teenager in south west England. It might have been warmer than a Gloucestershire field in January, but this uniquely claggy gloop made many climbs unrideable and the descents a bit more than sketchy. I don't mind the latter, but a nice bout of chain suck whenever I attempted to use the mud infested inner ring of my otherwise excellent Chiru Pulse was a cruel blow on the semi rideable climbs. With 400m climbing per lap including a fair bit of pushing up gloopy grassy knolls, I've ridden more convincing big ring race courses! 

On the upside there were some great sections through bamboo forest and little villages where the locals had come out to cheer "Gai-Ao" (it means 'fill up' or 'go on' for the uninitiated). 

Waking on Sunday to a beautiful day and looking from the balcony of our rather charming looking new / made to look old hotel in the middle of Hongcun town, our sprints were lifted and the mood was optimistic. I should probably add that this hotel's charm was lost somewhat when you hit the hole in the ground squat loo and passed through muddy cyclist detritus on the floor. But we weren't here to luxe it up in fancy hotels, we were here to race! 

And race we did, to rather varying degrees of success... The drivetrain toll was heavy enough to destroy Mr Leeper's rear dérailleur on lap 1. My fortunes weren't much better with that stupid crash right outside said hotel at the end of lap 1. A subsequent bent disc rotor and gear hanger rather slowed me down for lap 2, after which I retired to take a quick cruise around the town to see some sights rather than keep on listening to my scraping brake. Aron also pulled out at the end of this lap, opting for an early hotel shower next to the squat loo before our mini bus trip back to hangzhou airport. 

Speaking of which, a journey time miscalculation combined with the slower course meant that we would miss our evening flight if any of us three finished this one, so the early retirements were going to happen anyway.

Meanwhile, our superstar Pierre (who wasn't flying home till the next day) was flying on the bike. With the least mechanical troubles and the best handling skills to steer through the gloop, Pierre was having a good day. Working his way up through the field as those around him started to fall (myself included!), we got news on the bus that the 'leisurely antelope' (as google translate would later christen) had battled through to a fine 5th place finish. Chapeau to the Frenchman!

A cruel twist of fate came in the form of some equally epic flight delays, which were more than the extra leeway we needed to finish the race and come home the same evening given the 5 1/2 drive back to the airport, but such is life. 

Story of the weekend came from our Chiru Shanghai representative - Kay, who told us the story of a Chinese construction worker who drowned in a rather larger communal squat hole on site, having lost his footing around said hole. There's ways to go and there's ways to go.... One must always be thankful even if the little things (like getting home at 5.30am on a Monday morning) don't always work out exactly as you hope!

So, a fun weekend in a surprisingly pleasant part of China- thanks are due to Pierre, Kay and the rest of the Chiru team for their hard work in arranging these things. The racing luck and travel logistics may not have quite worked out as hoped for all, but still good to visit these places before they get too Disney'fied. Next time I'll take number 177 and a Monday flight please.

For further amusement, turn on the google translate on the below: