Perhaps you have seen the article on Cyclingnews. ‘Magner earns first pro win in China.’ Hell yeah he did. And it took a little luck and a lot of guts. Along with some excellent homework.
Wuhan is huge. As I said before its a city with more than 10 million people. And the city stretches forever. Finally, the race was not a circuit, but a point to point starting and finishing in Wuhan. We didn’t get to ride to the race because it was an hour long transfer by car. And the whole car ride I never saw anything but huge buildings. For a whole hour, some of that on a highway. It was impressive, almost scary, how large Wuhan is. I remarked to Oscar that it was like driving through three New York Cities that had been stretched into Jersey. He agreed.
Once the team arrived we found that there were no tents, no porta jons, just open sidewalk, the start banner, and of course, lots of city. We took shelter in one of the many buses that shuttled riders to the race and Thomas proceeded to discuss our race strategy. The previous day had been good. We had been in every major move throughout the day. Keep that up Thomas encouraged. Then we all had a good look at the finish. With a kilometer to go, the road went down until the race took a U-turn with 600 meters left in the stage. Odd, but thats the kind of information you want before a race.
Well, we missed the break. It went really early in the stage as everyone was jockeying for position before the final and decisive KOM sprint. The field chased as hard but that break was gone! So Christina Watches had to come to the front again and set tempo in order to keep the lead. Salcano, a Serbian team, lended a hand, and as we approached what had looked on the map like a writhing snake, teams began to muster at the front in anticipation of dangerous roads. Its interesting: before and during a dangerous or potentially race changing moment, the front is the safest place to be. Since everyone wants to be at the front the speed picks up and the race becomes even more dangerous as elbows fly and everyone jams themselves forward. Quite the paradox. It turned out that the serpintine road was something like a bike path that winded along the Yangtze River. We charged into it, taking up the whole ride. At times, it felt like a rollercoaster because we were flying over these small bridges then around tight corners. But everyone kept it up and when we exited the bike path back onto a highway, the break was in sight.
The helicopter was back and flying too low as usual. At one point, it hovered barely twenty feet above the ground in the middle of the road as the field as passing underneath. I was at the back at that point, waiting to get bottles when I saw the field in front of me suddenly fan out in 100 different directions. Before I could think anything of it, I was under the helicopter too and the intense turbulence from the blades nearly made me lose control of the bike. Shouting, fingers, and curses were thrown at that pilot for a good five minutes as well as shooing motions as we tried to get him to understand what had happened. I doubt he did.
At this point, the race began to move up onto a bridge over the city. Wuhan had lots of these roads. Highway above, city traffic below. And as we did, the kilometers began to quickly tick down. I found Ty and Oscar towards the back of the field and as we worked forwards together, Tanner and Joe followed suit. We were moving up on the right next to the ISD team from Ukraine, myself followed by Oscar then Ty. Closer and closer. 2 kilometers to go and the road pitched up. With 1 kilometer left, I swung off just as the road plunged down off the highway to the city below. We were flying when I looked up and saw confusion in the field. It looked like a huge crash was about to happen when some guys turned left and some went straight. Thats when I remembered the U-turn with 600 meters to go. As I took the corner myself, I saw Oscar and Tanner at the front of the field. If I had looked up the road a little more, I would have seen Ty opening up his sprint with 500 meters to go with a huge gap on the field. But I didnt. I took the first corner, and went from about 100th to 40th in the blink of an eye. I tried sprinting but was just getting passed so I ripped off my glasses and peered at the finish banner to see who had won. Thats when I saw two black gloves with white Hs on them shoot into the air. Ty had taken the win.
I rode up to him and gave him a big hug. We had pulled off an upset and it felt great. Until we got lost trying to ride back to the hotel. Good thing we were following the Chinese team…