Sunday, 8 June 2008
China, China, China!
Not long been back from the trip of a lifetime, I'm still buzzing! It was an amazing experience, one that I shall never forget. Everything in China is big, busy, fast paced and chaotic, but it all seems to integrate and work seamlessly. Cars, people, bikes, scooters and small fluffy dogs brush by each other with mere millimeters to spare, yet no one crashes. I have no idea how is can work like that. If some English dude hopped in a car over there there'd be fender benders and snapped off wing mirrors before they'd gotten top the end of the street. No wonder you can't hire cars over there!
We arrived quite late and hit the sack after grabbing a quick bite, 5 star style, the rooms were sweet, the best shower i've ever used and i made sure i hit that before i got some shut eye. We'd been up and on the travel tip for over 24 hours (including the GMT +7) so we were all pretty shot, yet we managed to grab some pretty good sleep and i didn't feel too jet lagged. We got up Tuesday morning and built the bikes up after having a massive breakfast. We had our country practice at 11am so we took a ride to the track and experienced life on Chinas mean streets, the ride was crazy, but what was crazier were the Chinese peoples reaction to us, Taiyuan is far off a tourist hot spot, Westerners must be a rare site and they probably don't venture too far from their 5 star joint, so they literally stop and stare, some with looks of bewilderment and others with huge smiles and massive waves and a loud HELLO! We all felt like celebrities! Everyone was so cool with us, even the police stopped and posed for pictures with us! We rode along taking in the sights, brushing with death at every intersection and enjoying the experience. The ride takes about 15 minutes and its about 4 miles, we grabbed our kit from Tony Da Butcher who was looking after us all weekend and we got ready for Practice.
Normally at an event like this you'll be lucky to get 10 laps in a 2 hour practice slot but we more than we could handle, you finished a lap grabbed a drink and you could be back on the hill within a few minutes, the wind was quite strong so the second straight was a little tricky, but everything else came together nice. I felt good and my gates were on the button, the hill was super steep, something i'm not normally into but it seemed to work well for me here. The heat was crazy, so after one lap i had to gulp down a big mouthful of fluid and keep it wet, the atmosphere was still super heavy, even though all the heavy plant and coal mining had been shut down for the event, which i thought went to show the commitment the Chinese people made to hosting this event.
The tour(ists) consisted of Lauren Smith, Dave Ives, Russ Hanlon and Flemdog. There were plenty of other UK heads over there including Tony the Butcher and son Billy, The Taylors, Hillybag, Mark from Groove, Marco and Andy Shaw, the GB squad and their entourage of shrinks and mechanics. We were all rocking it in the same hotel so it was nice to see some familiar faces amongst everything else.
UK on tour!
Wednesday practice was 90 minutes and again more time than we needed, the track was sweet and i was enjoying it, the pressure was minimal so it meant instead of stressing about a certain jump that i needed to nail it was more of a session, where you could chill, stop on the track, wait for a gap and have some fun with it. That's how i like it! I'm sure no other Worlds before now, or after now will be anything like this.
After practice we were tourists again and took the streets cameras in hand to see how things were done in China, i was loving it! That night we hit up a restaurant called 1950, we had a few beers, some good food and had a really cool time, the over staffed restaurant didn't no what hit them! Russ was perusing the waitresses like tasty morsels from a menu and we all had a laugh. The banter was flowing and we were relaxed, and psyched for Friday!
Thursday saw the 15 and under classes racing and we had 4 W plates in the form of the Dudley brothers, Darcy Taylor and Lauren Stack. After that the elite guys rocked the track and it was insane. These guys are off the chain. I've also never seen the American guys in action, and they were awesome, Bad Bubba Harris nailing the pro section first lap like it weren't no thing. Dave Ive's love affair with the man multiplied by 10 after seeing him in action in the flesh and not on Transit. However, as good as the americans looked stand outs were Sifiso from South Africa, Graves from Oz, Willers from NZ, Strombergs and the french Yowths
After Elites were done we took a steady ride back, went for some food and pro sleep before racing the next day. It was get nervous time. I was out like a light, Ivesy tossed and turned all night, i obviously hadn't let it sink in!
On race morning we rode to the track warmed up and got our focus on in the parc ferme. I was pretty nervous now! There were 17 riders in 25-29 so 5 were dropped for two 6 man semis. I had an okay moto, I only recognised 2 guys names and knew they were pretty good. Anyway i got a 3 in moto one. A crash in moto 2 saw me with a 5 (should have been 6 but the Chinese youth who kamikaze'd himself into me got DQ'd) thing was i didn't complete the track as my bike was mashed up, so i got a DNF and 6 points! Argh! So i needed a 3rd in moto 3, I put together a good lap and managed it, so i was in the semi and stoked!
In the semi i got a good gate although i was shatting myself and was in about 3rd, but i stuffed up the jump into turn one, and i was well and truly in 5th. I pulled back some ground down my favourite 3rd straight and almost had it, there was nothing in it, but 5th is 5th and that was that.
Marco got a W5 in my class. Andy Shaw got a W3 in 30+. Dale won Masters with Hilly earning himself a W5. Lauren also got semi'd. Russ got moto'd - Adelaide buddy! And Ivesy did good and managed to secure a W5 plate. Stoked for the UK!
Kelvin in Elite made it out through to the quarters but went out, however he did secure GB (and himself i hope) a spot in the olympics! Liam Phillips went out in motos. Joey went out in the semi. Shanaze killed it, with ease, she got another World title. Ahh, to be that good eh?!
The UK did good bringing home aout 15 W plates. Not bad, not bad at all!
Taiyuan by night
After racing we decided in our group to leave behind Taiyuan and head for Beijing and get on a few things there. Im so glad we did. Taiyuan kind of lost its vibe a bit after the worlds, all the banners & flags came down, all the factories started up again, and it wasn't the same. It was real. But just not the same. We'd seen some amazing things in Taiyuan and I loved it, but i'm glad we moved on for the last bit of the trip.
We got a cheap morning flight to Beijing, checked into a poky little hotel (not a patch on our 5 star easy living!) and got a power nap under our belts. We were all feeling it by now and i could have slept for 24 hours i'm sure! We headed out in Beijing in the Afternoon and there was a lot of westerners, a lot of tourist tack, and we no longer had our celebrity/rock star status. Russ was gutted!
We bought a few bits and bobs and went out for an awesome tea, the thing with Beijing was a lot of people spoke English, so it was much easier to get by, order food, ask directions, order a beer. It was a lot less hassle but didn't feel as good. Guess i like things off the beaten track.
The next day we booked onto a trip, to the Ming Tombs which were prety weak, and the Great Wall of China, which was absolutely amazing. A truly breath taking experience that i shall never forget. I was so stoked to be up there, taking it all in and experiencing something i never thought I would. China, man, it still hasn't really all sunk in. It was awesome.
That night back in Beijing we had the biggest meal of the trip 3 big beers each and more fod than we could all eat, it ended up costing us less thn a fiver each. You just couldn't spend your money. Last bit of shopping and a beer, and then bed for our long journey back to England the following day. A litre of fuel cost a Yuan, about 7 pence, i could fill the Vito up for about 6 quid! haha!
The trip back wasn't as bad as i thought, i watched some movies, ate some food, listened to music and journaled a few things, it was over before i knew it. Quick changeover to our connecting flight to Paris (where they left our bikes behind - nob'eds) and we were back in Manchester in time for tea!
The trip was over. I was happy to be home, but sad it was all over. It had been a trip of a lifetime with some awesome people, no real clashing and no aggro, even though i was diagnised a hot head by a Chinese doctor and Flem was diagnosed with kidney failure.. I'm sure thy were just on the hard sell!
I loved every minute, experiencing the sights and smells, the people, the food, the culture, the environment, the racing, the spectating, the vibe, the beer, the laughs. It was all just perfect, thanks to my roadies, you made it what it was.
Adelaide next year, yeah?!