Giant on the move
Cyclists go a little too fast for the ‘bicycle kingdom’
China might once have been known as the ‘bicycle kingdom’, but if the scene along the women’s road race today is anything to go by, I wouldn’t hold my breath that the Olympics will inspire many Chinese people to become fans of competitive cycling.
A sizeable crowd gathered along an intersection near the historic Lama Temple in the centre of town to watch the racers go by this afternoon — some spectators who came specifically for the event, others passersby who were forced by the roadblock to wait and watch, many of them on bicycles themselves.
You could tell that many in the crowd didn’t really know what to expect as they waited for the group to pass by. With little to no background in cycling as a sport, many simply watched to see what would happen, how it would work. Most appeared more curious than excited.
The tension built up a bit when the police vans started to drive past. Many leaned forward for a better view each time, expecting the racers to be following soon behind. “When are they going to come?” one woman asked, losing patience.
After more waiting, the caravan of vans driving in front of the cyclists announced their arrival. As they approached with their high-performance bikes and bright helmets and jerseys, the crowd let out a sort of astonished gasp, not a cheer, just trying to soak it in.
Within a few seconds, they were past.
“What, that’s it?” many people around me said.
“It was so fast! I hadn’t even gotten a chance to see them clearly yet, and they were already past,” said Yang Yi, a 57-year-old manager at a construction firm who lives in the area. “But at least I know now what it’s all about.”
PHOTO: Cyclists compete in the women’s road race cycling competition during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 10, 2008. REUTERS/Paul Gilham/Pool