China's nationwide affinity for cycling is no secret. In the era of convenience, while the phenomenon of shared bicycles has taken the country by storm, professional cycling is still a relatively undeveloped market. However, ASO, the organizers of the world’s third most recognized sports competition in the world, the Tour de France, intend to change that by bringing the first ever Tour de France Critérium to Shanghai this month.
The Tour de France is categorized into four jerseys—the yellow jersey, representing the “best rider in the general ranking," green jersey for“best sprinter,” red spotted jersey for “King of the Mountains”and the white jersey for “best young rider.” Luxembourgian professional cyclist and winner of the Tour de France 2010, wearing the yellow jersey, Andy Schleck, is the new representative of L'Étape de Tour. He was recently in Shanghai for the presentation of the events. "Professional cycling is becoming more global, all sports are. In the last couple of years we’re starting to see countries that used to dominate the sport fall behind, I think China could be a prime contender in cycling,”says Schleck.
As the Chinese middle class grows with disposable income and leisure time alongside it, the notion of cycling for sport is gaining popularity here. However, for long term success, interest needs to be cultivated from a young age, as it is with other sports such as basketball, where China currently ranks 14th internationally. Schleck comes from a family of cyclists. He turned professional at just 18 and went on to wear the white jersey in 2008 and 2009, yet the first Chinese cyclist to ever enter the Tour de France, Ji Cheng, entered only as recently as 2014.
Now retired from cycling because of an injury, Schleck focuses on raising his young family and leveraging his bike shop to promote the sport in Luxembourg. He also organizes The Tour of Luxembourg, a World Cup race, and an international amateur race for young children. "I want to have more cyclists in the world because it's a healthy lifestyle. It doesn't matter if you succeed or if you don't, but I believe any sport helps create a healthy lifestyle and good habits," he adds.
Slated for October 28-29, the Critérium is a two-part event. The most influential cycling race in China thus far, L'Étape on the first day brings together the world's top riders in a peloton of 60 professional cyclists. Great Britain's Christopher Froome, who wore the yellow jersey in 2015 to 2017; Frenchman Warren Barguil, who wore the spotted jersey in 2017; and China's Ji Cheng will feature among riders in the Critérium. And it will be contested on a three-kilometer circuit at Shanghai's Expo Site by the China Art Museum.
From 7am on October 29, a 20-kilometer circuit beginning at Fenghe Lu in Pudong and ending at Guozhan Lu, will be open to the public where thousands of amateurs are expected to join. Those interested in participating must pre-register online before October 16 through a ballot process. If successful, tickets will be on sale for RMB380.
The event is well-received globally as it provides amateurs with a real taste of participating in Tour de France. Roads will be entirely blocked off to traffic, simulating a professional cycling race atmosphere. The 14th addition of this international event marks the first step of organizers' goals to expand L'Étape all across China.
Confirmed Critérium Cyclists
Born in Kenya, growing up between there and South Africa, with British parents Froome has ridden under a British license since 2008. Developing a passion for the sport from age eight and turning professional at age 24, Froome is the reigning Tour de France champion, having won four times in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
French cyclist Warren Barguil began his professional career in 2011. He is best known for winning two mountain stages and the Mountains Classification of the 2017 Tour de France; the latter of those stage victories was earned at the finish line on Col d'zoard.
We're giving away TDF souvenirs signed by Andy Schleck, including scarves, jerseys and caps.
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