The Marco Polo Cycling Team is gearing up to take on the Tour de Georgia with additional sponsor GE next week, and in preparation for the race they surprised a few local elite riders by showing up at a Greenville, South Carolina race last weekend.
The Chinese-based squad has raced in most parts of the globe, but never before in America. When they arrived in Atlanta last Thursday, they decided to take in some racing to shake the jet lag out of their legs.
The team headed up to Greenville for the races put on by the Freewheelers of Spartanburg at the Donaldson Center – a circuit well-familiar to regional racers who use the seven mile flat course for early season training races. Marco Polo's Rhys Pollock took third.
Sunday's Walnut Grove road race featured a more selective course, and after a day's racing to warm up the legs, the squad took control. After an attack of Xing Yan Dong of China, Australian Jai Crawford launched the counter-attack and rode over 30 kilometres solo to victory. Once Crawford's gap was large enough, Pollock went away with 12 kilometres to go to take second after dropping his breakaway companion, veteran Pat Raines (TIME Pro Cycling), while Sergey Kudentsov cleaned up in the bunch sprint with fourth.
The team's director for Tour de Georgia, Michael Carter, was pleased with the squad's performance. "It's actually a great segue because these guys were able to ride yesterday and loosen their legs up a little bit, and today it looks like they are really coming into some good form," Carter told GoUpstate.com.
"This week, they'll just rest, recuperate a little bit, get used to the time zone again, and they ought to be in good shape."
The team used the rest of the week for sponsor activities and a preview of the Brasstown Bald climb before traveling to Tybee Island for the race start on Friday.
Chinese star Fuyu Li competed Thursday in the Asian Championships in Japan, and then headed to the US for the Tour de Georgia.