BMX star-turned-roadie Steven Wong (right) pops a wheelie beside Matthias Friedemann during a team training ride on the island of Hainan.
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ProContinental team looking to build off Clarke's solid start
With Champion System's first training camp over and done with, the ProContinental outfit is looking ahead to its season-opening race, the Tour of Qatar.
More than 200 people attended a final presentation and press conference last week in Hong Kong for the first Asian-based pro continental team. The event capped nearly a month of media sessions and training in mainland China and garnered coverage on Hong Kong's three major TV newscasts and in 10 newspapers.
"I am amazed at the overwhelming reception the team received at both the Beijing and Hong Kong presentations," Champion System Pro Cycling Team General Manager Ed Beamon said. "It's very rewarding to see how the mainstream media has already embraced the team and shown its enthusiasm for the new project."
Even before its first race of the season, Champion System has received a good share of attention thanks to Australian Will Clarke's stage win at the Santos Tour Down Under in mid-January. Riding for Team UniSA-Australia, the 26-year-old Tasmanian soloed the final 70 kilometers to win stage 2 in Stirling.
"I'm pretty happy with how the race went and it has given me some renewed confidence in myself for this year," Clarke said. "I have not raced Qatar or Oman, from what I hear they are hard and pretty fast – with Qatar usually being decided by strong cross winds. Of the two races, I am looking forward to Oman more because there will be more variation in the course and it should suit me better. I am also looking forward to seeing what I can do there and also racing with my new teammates."
Beamon said the team won't be deterred by a field at Qatar that's heavily laden with ProTeam talent.
"We know it's a difficult race and will require a lot of focus, but I think we have a strong and a fast team," he said. "We'll be looking to make the splits and the team will work hard at the finishes. No doubt it is a very hard way to start the team's competitive life, but we're bringing an experienced group and we're not taking anything for granted.
"I'm also looking forward to Oman. It may be a little better venue for us, and I think we have a good shot at a stage victory there."
Tour of Qatar Roster:
Clinton Avery (NZL), Will Clarke (AUS), Matthias Friedemann (GER), Xu Gang (CHN),Gorik Gardeyn (BEL), Aaron Kemps (AUS), Mart Ojavee (EST), Jiao Pengda (CHN).
Tour of Oman Roster:
Clinton Avery (NZL), Chris Butler (USA), Will Clarke (AUS), Matthias Friedemann (GER), Xu Gang (CHN), Gorik Gardeyn (BEL), Mart Ojavee (EST), Jiao Pengda (CHN).