All you need to know with one day to go
November 15 th 2019 - 18:32
On the eve of the third edition of the Tour de France Škoda Shanghai Criterium, the Tour de France riders got a crash course in Chinese cuisine and put their reflexes to the test in front of a swarm of eager fans. Team Ineos's young climber Egan Bernal, who became the first Colombian to claim the Yellow Jersey earlier this year, will spring into action almost at the crack of dawn for an amateur time trial in which fans will get to see how they fare against their idol clad in his famous Jersey. The main race will consist of 17 laps of the 3.6 km circuit, with 28 Chinese cyclists ready to take the fight to the likes of Ewan, Trentin, Nibali and Kruijswijk.
Caleb Ewan: "It's always fun to race in a big city!"
"It feels great to be back in China!", chirped the affable rider from Down Under —and winner of stage 21 of the Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées— as he defied jet lag this morning, five years after taking part in the Tour of Beijing. "The roads are in good condition and the organisation is perfect." The 25-year-old sprinter landed in Shanghai yesterday and put his spare time to good use by checking out the breath-taking view of the Bund from the Ritz-Carlton's restaurant, perched on the 58th floor of a building in the bustling Pudong district. Panoramic photos in hand, he described the enormity of this megalopolis with as many contrasts as skyscrapers. "I love the special atmosphere of big cities. On these circuits, fans get to see the peloton blast past several times, in contrast to the courses of traditional races, which are more of a 'blink and you'll miss it' affair." Turning to Chinese fans, he added: "I have no idea whether they know as much about cycling as European fans, but their interest in the sport is growing. There weren't so many cyclists in the streets in 2014!" The Lotto–Soudal rider will be flanked by teammates Thomas De Gendt, Adam Blythe and Tim Wellens, who will also be taking part in this race like no other.
Steven Kruijswijk: "I like the idea of getting to know a new culture"
After finishing third overall in the Grande Boucle in July, the 32-year-old Dutchman pounced on the opportunity to enter a race that feels like stage 22 of the Tour de France: "I think it's an amazing experience to be able to ride in such a vast city!" The Jumbo–Visma man, a rider who likes to fly under the radar while racking up Grand Tour starts —17 so far— rose with the sun to go for a ride around a city that is usually known for its congested streets. "You need to wake up early to get an accurate picture of Shanghai", he says adamantly. "Robert [Gesink] and I went around a few parks with 50-odd cycling enthusiasts who came especially to ride at our sides!" After wrapping up their ride, the duo were invited to a 100% local breakfast in an old-town café known for its numerous regional specialities. It was an opportunity to enter uncharted gastronomical territory, as exemplified by their curious and mischievous tone: "You never really know what you're tasting!"
Rave ravioli or pasta la vista? Gathered around a masterful chef from Guangdong, a province in south-east China, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain–Merida), Tim Wellens (Lotto–Soudal), Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-SCOTT) and Koen Bowman (Jumbo–Visma) learned to make wonton (dumplings similar to ravioli) in front of an audience of Chinese influencers late in the morning. One of them, 2018 FIFA World Cup presenter Rachel Liu, lent a hand to those who felt like fish out of water in the kitchen: "The way we make dumplings varies from one region to the next. In my village back in Sichuan, we like to shape them like birds." Some apprentices were bewildered by the highly technical method. After wearing the polka-dot jersey for a fortnight in the last Tour de France, Tim Wellens faced an entirely different kind of mountain: "I'm no good at cooking… But I am great at eating!" Nibali was the first to tackle the challenge one day after his 35th birthday on 14 November, a special date that the Italian shares with another Tour de France champion, Bernard Hinault. A smile crosses the face of the Shark from Messina as he adds with a touch of national pride: "I love the diversity of Chinese cuisine, but nothing —nothing— can compare to a good pasta dish!"
A whiff of July in the middle of November
The third edition of the Criterium will feature the cream of the crop of the international peloton. The new whiz kid of world cycling and youngest Tour de France champion since the war, Egan Bernal (Team Ineos), will clash with Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo–Visma), third in the Grande Boucle at 1′31″, as well as pocket rocket Caleb Ewan (Lotto–Soudal), who racked up three stage wins in his Tour debut, Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-SCOTT), the 2019 European champion and silver medallist in the recent Worlds in Harrogate, and Bahrain–Merida leader Vincenzo Nibali, whose list of victories speaks for itself. These men, the five stars on the official poster of the Asian race, will soon go head to head in a summer atmosphere opposite the China Art Museum, the majestic pavilion built for the Expo 2010 Shanghai China.
Egan Bernal : « I'm very aware of the fact that the power of cycling is felt across borders in Europe. That China, a huge power, would be so interested in cycling is very important for me, being the rider that I am, as well as all cyclists in general. »