In 2012 I am a member of the Champion System Pro Cycling Team, registered in Hong Kong and the 1st professional continental registered team from Asia. The UCI has a clear goal of globalizing the sport and with that the team is new frontier in this evolution of cycling and when the opportunity came up to be apart of it I jumped straight into it. Through the vision of Luis Shih, champion system owner and massive supporter of cycling throughout the world, and the guidance of the vastly experienced Ed Beamon, the team was launched in January and began it's journey into the world of professional cycling.
The identity of the team is most definitely international. We have a very significant Asian influence in terms of riders, staff and sponsors. A very anglo Americans/Aussie theme stemming from the management, riders and sponsors from the region and of course strong European ties with riders and our central service course in Belgium which is the infrastructure hub of the team to deploy us all over the world. Nationalities that make up the team include, Chinese, Malaysian, hong kong, estonian, german, Swiss, new Zealand, Spain, Belgium, american, and Australian. This mix of personalities and structure of our race program where we have strong representation in professional races in Asia, Europe, and America all season long demonstrates our very international culture.
A program of this scale has certainly been done to some level in the past however perhaps not to the extent which Champion System will embark on in 2012. The logistical issues faced by management headed by Ed Beamon are certainly never ending and a very demanding part of keeping the program running. Similarly the riders on the team are faced with new challenges of trying to maintain competitiveness across all continents with the added stain of travel. Fortunately we are a very international team with most of the riders used to traveling long distances to ply there trade so we have some experience to deal with the continent hopping. With the major races now on around the globe you need to very quickly find ways to manage the travel to the best of your ability as there are no head starts or time bonus's given to you for spending more time than your competitors traveling around the globe. I have found that the mental approach to the travel is very important when spending time so much time on plane's, and going through time zone changes. Personally I often look forward to boarding the plane so I can catch up on the latest movies, a good book, and most importantly some forced rest which professional cyclists often find difficult to do when the bike is readily available! Not much training can be done from 30000 feet so may as well make the most of the down time.
Team Champion System's commitment to the emergence of Asian cycling is very significant. Until now Asian riders have been faced with so many barriers to entering the world of professional cycling outside of Asia. Participation of the sport in the region is immense and vast, however travel restrictions have meant that often the athletes from the region cannot travel to freely compete wherever they choose around the world like us anglo's and Europeans are able to do. That's where team champion system is a unique opportunity for riders from the Asian region that are fortunate to be apart of the 1st professional team to compete from the region. With the team they are able to race all over the world and gain the experience much more easily than they have been able to in the past. Ed and his management team take the responsibility to ensure all the correct visa and travel permits are in place so these athletes can focus solely on there preparation and racing across the globe.
With the uci spreading it's wings all over the world but predominately in china, it appears that emergence of team champion system has come at a crucial time for the Asian riders to make themselves more prominent in the international peleton. Having so many high level races also in there own region means they can now compete in the comfort of there home environment against some of the best riders in the world and then in turn take this experience with them all over the globe and improve there skills and competitiveness even more. Not only is the globalizing of the sport great for the athletes with which home countries the events are staged, it also open the eyes of the world to the beautiful sport of road cycling which popularity seems to be spreading like a plaige. Like running, almost everybody can ride a bike and as such the sport offers a unique feature in that those watching can appreciate just how incredibly gifted, and to many of the observers how super human the top athletes within the sport truly are.
Of course the world economy has to have an effect on the development of professional sport as it is the commodity that keeps it all moving forward. In light of this it is also no surprise that the uci are reaching further afield to region's previously only touched on by road cycling. On the flip side, the sport has to provide a product that is entertaining and marketable and good for the image for those investing in it. I feel that due to the incredible growth of the sport particularly over the last few years the collective personal involved from sponsors, host cities, riders, staff and admin are doing a great job in providing a show at all corners of the globe. For me it is an amazing and exciting opportunity to apart of the road show as it roles on.
This week with the start of the Tour of Qinghai lake marks the first of a string of important races in china which team champion system will compete over the coming months. What an amazing event, 14 days, all stages held between 1500-3800m in altitude, and all on the fringe of the Tibetan plateau. I am just wondering how long it will be before the organizers have a summit finish on base camp at everist!! That would be something. So for the team it is a great opportunity for the Chinese riders to compete in front of there home crowd and give our Chinese sponsors the opportunity first hand to see what there generous investment has helped develop. The riders and staff are all very excited about the 2 weeks ahead.
The season is certainly a great journey into the unknown however upon reflection so is the evolution of professional cycling. Sure Le tour de France will always be the mecha of the sport that captivates the world and I continue to strive to one day be apart of it. However the globalization of the sport through the vision of the uci and the development of teams to give riders in these regions thanks to the investment of the likes of Luis shih is a exciting space to watch also. In reality it's all just the beginning of a very exciting future for all involved in the evolution of our wonderful sport.