ROAD magazine June 2013 : Page 60

maybe a school of kids out to cheer you by. By the middle of the race this had grown into a sea of celebratory colors and sounds that was now splashed across the grey parchment of infrastructure. People lined the streets in festive colors and played traditional drums even as we passed in the neutralized starts. Th ey where cheering for the race, for the sport, and for what the sport meant to them. Th ey enjoyed the competition but more because there was an understanding that they were an integral part of the spectacle that was unfolding in the streets of their homes. It is sure that many of them didn’t understand the intricacies of racing, but that didn’t stop them from reveling in the beauty of the spectacle that is cycling. Th at passion for the sport was the fuel powering the race as well. Riders from nearly every team attacked relentlessly all week. Honestly, it was often devoid of strategy and you could tell it was just driven by a desire to play a part in the outcomes of the race. I was lucky enough to be there at the moment in the race when the sport laid bare its DNA. I am talking about that passion for struggle that sets cycling apart from every other sport. It was in the breakaway on Stage 4, with maybe 15 kilometers to go. A group of riders bridged to our lead breakaway. In the group was Drapac’s Bernard Saulzberger and one of his teammates. As they joined us, I could see they had been riding fl at out to come across. Th eir team car came up at precisely that moment of contact. Th eir director, Augustino, was leaning out the side of the car and yelled to his guys, “Don’t ease up now, this is it, this is the tour!” His eyes where wide and wild with excitement and his words drove his guys on. He was right, that break ended up deciding the GC in their favor. It was a single moment, among hundreds of others, that defi ned the race that week. Th e only ones to bear witness to it were those of us in the breakaway. It was that moment that happens in every race. Th at instant in which the day is won through an athlete’s willingness to manufacture his own suff ering. I was the benefi ciary of their work over the last 10 km and was able to freshen up just enough from a long day off the front to steal the biggest UCI win of my career so far. Th is was a great way to start the year for my new supports at the Champion System Pro Cycling Team. It was thanks to that dynamic in the race that I was given the opportunity to show the best of myself. Th is is one of the aspects of cycling I fi nd so fantastic, and something I have touched on in other pieces I have written in the last few months. Th e racing in Taiwan, and in much of Asia, is certainly in its infancy. It tends to be passed over by much of the competitive world as unimportant, or somehow inferior. Granted, the depths of the race fi elds may not be what you see in Europe; you are not going to fi nd any races with a classics-style history or catalogs of epic photography about the hard Asian racers of the bygone days. What you will fi nd is an ever-growing corner of the sport that is not tainted by people who want to see more out of the sport than it can off er. In this corner of the world the sport is rising out of a passion for both the competition and the aesthetic associated with the creation of the tools of the trade. Th e fans see the value in the drama that can unfold when the athletes are imperfect. It means there is more to celebrate when they see my teammate, Chun Kai Feng – the fi rst pro continental Taiwanese cyclist – fi ght and falter his way to the king of the mountains jersey. As the high-ups of this sport sit and consider the future, I think they may be able to learn how to move forward by looking to where the sport began. Surely, in its infancy in Europe, this was a sport full of passion and good intentions. In the attitude and approach to racing that is growing in Asia, they also have a living case study of what the early culture of competitive cycling might have looked like. If it can be used to remind the rest of the cycling world why we are racing bikes in the fi rst place, it might be able to help push the sport back to a place long ago. One where those who favor the creation of scandalous headlines about corruption and doping in bike racing are again forced to the outside to watch as the rest of us celebrate dramatic humanity of imperfect, passionate bike racers. 60 ROAD Magazine

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