Two days to go
November 15 th 2018 - 15:46
Riders continue to land in China in dribs and drabs as the second edition of the Shanghai Criterium approaches. Early bird Pierre Latour arrived on Monday and is already getting used to life in the city. Wang Meiyin and Feng Chung Kai, two Chinese riders from Bahrain–Merida, will go head-to-head with the world elite on Saturday. Meanwhile, with just a couple of days to go until the Criterium, the peloton has lost three Tour riders to injury.
LATOUR BREAKS AWAY
Less than a month ago, at the unveiling of the 2019 Tour route in the Palais des Congrès in Paris, Pierre Latour was already looking forward to discovering Shanghai. "I've never been to China, so I'm really excited to race there. Riding with a Tour jersey makes it even more awesome because it implies extra responsibility", explained the best young rider of the 2018 edition (13th overall). The AG2R La Mondiale rider had to sit out a few races after suffering a nasty fall in the Clásica de San Sebastián in August and only returned to competition during the Italian autumn season in October. For the Shanghai Criterium, he was the first rider to make his way to the biggest city in China, where he decided to reconnoitre the course in his own special way: "I've spent most of the time taking in the sights with my girlfriend. I'm even starting to learn the ins and outs of the metro network. We've visited a few markets, which all look very different from what we're used to, it's a whole new world. Never mind the marinated herrings for breakfast."
ETHAN RUAN IN THE GAME
More and more Chinese fans are showing their passion for the stars of cycling. However, Peter Sagan, Geraint Thomas, Marcel Kittel and Romain Bardet have left their place on the official Criterium poster to Ethan Ruan, one of the most famous actors in the country, who is serving as event ambassador. The superstar, who was 8.6 million followers on the Weibo social network, is a big fan of cycling himself and will get to meet again with riders he has already seen in the past. Back in 2017, he was invited to the final stage of the Tour on the Champs-Élysées to ring the bell marking the final lap of the closing circuit. "I'm mighty proud to have been asked to be part of the event in my own way… but I'm not in good enough shape to be part of the peloton! I'll have to settle for sharing my interest in the Tour de France, I'm much better at this."
BAHRAIN–MERIDA WITH CHINESE FLAVOUR
The Bahrain–Merida team is home to the two only Chinese riders in the elite category, who are obviously taking part in the Shanghai Criterium. Although none of them has been selected for the Grande Boucle yet, Wang Meiyin and Feng Chung Kai have already got a taste of another monument of cycling that electrifies them even more: Paris–Roubaix. The former, who hails from Shandong, the same province as Confucius, will certainly draw upon the teachings of the ancient philosopher to tame the Hell of the North, a race he failed to complete in the last two editions. His teammate also tried his luck on the cobblestones in 2015 and 2016… with the same result. When they see the rest of the peloton in Shanghai, they will get to share their memories and, even more importantly, hear some tips from cobble-gobblers such as defending champion Peter Sagan and 2015 winner Mathew Hayman.
A FLURRY OF WITHDRAWALS
After Tanel Kangert withdrew last week due to an arm injury, the Shanghai peloton also lost Rick Zabel, who will have to stay home after suffering a collarbone fracture. Juraj Sagan had to cancel his trip to China yesterday after breaking a foot during training.