By Steve Thomas
The Chinese registered Continental Trek-Marco Polo team has been having a great 2008 season, scoring numerous stage and other race victories all around the world through their mix of Asian, Antipodeans and European riders – and as an primarily Asian based team their season has not yet come to an end. It will finish with the Tour of South China Seas between 14th-21st December around Hong Kong. They demonstrated their regional strength just a few days ago in the Chinese National Road Race Championships, where all four of the teams Chinese riders finished in the top seven places in the title race.
With a full season of international racing already in their legs, the blue clad Marco Polo riders were expected to be a step ahead of the rest of the field and to dominate the Chinese title race; and that's exactly what they did. Escaping in the closing kilometres, from a small lead group, Liu Yilin timed his move for victory to perfection, while his Marco Polo team mate Fuyu Li (who rode for Discovery Channel last year) came home with the remains of the lead group to take third spot.
Marco Polo's other two Chinese riders Han Feng and Xing Yan Dong followed the medal winners home in fifth and seventh place respectively, completing a great day out for the team. Breaking the Marco Polo domination on the podium, in second place, was their former teammate Xu Gang.
The full team roster for 2009 is still to be finalised, but the Chinese contingent of riders has been confirmed; Liu Yilin, Fuyu Li and Xing Yan Dong will remain with the team, and two soon to be announced new Chinese recruits will be signed up to ride for Marco Polo Next year.