Up at 6.30 for breakfast in the dining hall - more roast bread and weak coffee. The day's weather was typical of the entire time the Jazz Apples Cycling Team was in Chongming; a cool morning in the mid-teens, ramping up to the mid 20s by the evening. Light winds early blowing up by 11am to a reasonable breeze. This made the conditions very pleasant indeed, so long as you were clear of the thousands of cigarette smoking locals!
View of Nanmen from my 15th floor room
After breakfast the girls went to Lauren's room for the day's race planning, while I headed back up to my room for one last quick look over the bikes. I did a tyre pressure check, then I grabbed my tools (I take my full toolbag for the boot of the Team car, plus my Roadworks musette for the on the road action) and spare wheels down to the lobby to meet Chris, Warmy and Mr Ding. Susy had the slightly onerous task of being our team representative at a presentation prior to the Race Depart, so she set off earlier than us, and we milled around a while. Once it was time to leave the girls set off on their bikes and we followed/led them to the start of todays "criterium" - really a circuit race, as the 16 laps were each 4.1 km long.
Jazz Apples rolling through the streets of Nanmen
My on-the-road kit
The girls warmed up, fitted radios and filled their bidons from the supplied bottles of water, while Chris and I held court at the tent the race organisers head supplied for each Team. The race had drawn massive crowds of curious onlookers, many of whom were curious to meet the girls...
Before long it was time to start, so Chris and I jumped into the car (#8 in the convoy) with Chris driving and Warmy and Mr Ding in the back. The race was fast from the gun, and it very soon became apparent that the many Chinese teams were all going to be working for each other to prevent any of the foreign teams from winning. A field of 14 teams (75 riders) had 6 Chinese teams, as well as teams from the Ukraine, Poland, Thailand, Vietnam, South Africa, the UK, USA and us good old Kiwis.
Some of the South African Team at sign on
The race was being run under road race rules, so there would be no lap out for mechanicals. This meant I was in the car with wheels and tools clutched firmly in my hands, keyed up and ready to leap out in the event of a mishap. Luckily, this stage was run off without a hitch as far as we were concerned, although Lauren was the rider directly in front of a bad crash in the last lap. This involved several riders, one of whom was unable to continue racing.
All the Jazz women got away in breaks at various times, but all were dragged back by the Chinese juggernaut. The sprint was looking good for Ruth as the race fired out of the final corner, but unfortunately she got swamped in the rush to the line and finished 20th...the over-riding things in the peloton seemed to be the slightly Kamikaze-esque riding by some of the Asian riders, and their unusual habit of screaming horror-movie style whenever anyone touched or got too close to them!
The South Africans were very active and their sprint ace, Cherise Taylor, got 3rd behind two Chinese athletes.
B World Champion, Huang Xiaomei (#94)
About to set off
Racing - the field ahead in the distance
Good crowds everywhere
Post-stage: Chris debriefs the Team
After the stage I was approached by an Australian reporter for an English language Shanghai daily paper, so I hooked him up with Chris and the girls for an interview back at the hotel later on. He took some pics of the Team for the article and I snapped a couple as he was shooting them.
We then rolled back to the hotel for some well deserved lunch and a lot of laughs discussing the mad bunch behaviour. The Team then decamped to their rooms to relax and recover, while I began my post-stage checkovers up in my own room. Due to the extremely clean and smooth roads (not a trace of glass!) and the lack of crashes, the bikes were all sweet. I really just had to wipe the dust and grit off them and adjust Lauren's front shifting a hair. While taking one of my innumerable journeys up and down the lifts I was approached by Andrew, an American looking after the USA's Kraft Genie - Champion Systems Team. One of his riders, Jen Magur, had been one of the riders taken down in the ugly last lap crash I mentioned. She was banged up and heavily grazed, but her bike was worse off. Andrew not being a mechanic asked if I could help, and he'd cleared it with Susy so of course I said yes. It took about an hour to sort out the badly buckled front wheel, bent rear derailleur, banged up 'bars/levers and to check the bike out, but I got it running sweet and gave it back to poor Jen so she could race the next day...
At dinner I was presented by Jen with a dozen King bottles of beer - half a dozen Heineken and the rest the local Tsing Tao. It was lovely to have my work acknowledged in such a generous and practical way!
As there was no bar to speak of, and no real venue for the race personnel to socialise in as we are used to in NZ, I settled into my room to quaff some ale and watch Chong Ming TV for the highlights of the Opening Ceremony and (briefly) the race. The ceremony consisted of the Team reps including Susy being introduced as they rode over the stage, then the riders were hustled away while fireworks were fired, acrobats balanced, trials riders hopped about, dancers danced and endless speeches were made. Some rather dire rapping from some ex-pat Yanks wrapped it up...
Thus ended the day, and also this post. I'll be back with more tales and pics very soon. Cheers, Oli