By Bjorn Haake
World time trial and cyclo-cross champion Hanka Kupfernagel recently travelled to China with partner and coach Mike Kluge to preview several courses for the Beijing Olympic Games in August. The couple found the weather quite different to that expected this summer with temperatures hovering around freezing. While not ideal for training purposes, the cold air did make Beijing's notorious pollution more bearable. "Everybody has been talking about the air pollution, but when we were there it was no so bad," said Kluge.
In August last year, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge said that some endurance events at the Beijing Games may have to be postponed, unless the city could significantly reduce its serious smog problem. The Australian Olympic Committee has already stated that its athletes won't arrive in Beijing until the last possible moment, in order to avoid potential respiratory problems.
Worse than the weather was the traffic, and as the two rode through the city they got into several dicey situations. With China's rapidly expanding economy, the bicycle appears to be losing out against a fast growing car market. "The car drivers there do not have much respect and they will often cut you off," added Kluge.
As for the road course itself, Kupfernagel was content with what she saw. "It's OK," she said. The versatile German can potentially medal in three different disciplines this summer. She has good chances in the time trial, the endurance track events and also the mountain bike race. However, with the places for each nation rather limited, expect some more controversy to unfold in the German national team over the next few months.
Kupfernagel is currently in South Africa for a training camp.