Tour of Fuzhou to unite Taiwan and China next year

Cycling set to help international relations

As the fourth Tour of Fuzhou got underway with stage 1 being won in a bunch sprint by Italy’s Mattia Gavazzi in Ma Wei, Shen Jin Kang, the grand master of Chinese cycling known as “coach Shen” told Cyclingnews the event will be partly held in Taiwan as well as in the Fujian province in mainland China next year.

“We already had a plan to do it this year but for some reasons it’s been delayed,” Shen said.

“The city of Fuzhou is geographically close to Taiwan, people here and on the other side of the strait speak the same kind of Mandarin, so we see the race as a unique opportunity to unite the two territories with a single event. It takes less than three hours to bridge the two places by boat.”

Tour de Taiwan organizers Lee Kai-chih and May Wang visited the Tour of Fuzhou for the second time. “We’re more than happy to help this project,” said the experienced leaders of the Chinese Taipei Cycling Association.

Coach Shen is the man behind the successes of Chinese track cycling as well as Hong Kong’s. He built his reputation by making Wong Kam Po the first Asian to win a stage at Le Tour de Langkawi in 2000 prior to becoming the world champion for scratch racing in 2007, a performance repeated by his compatriot Kwok Ho Ting ahead of Elia Viviani. Kwok was forced to an early retirement due to back problems but Choi Ki Ho, another of Shen’s protégés from Hong Kong who won the very first Tour of Fuzhou in 2012, voluntarily quit the sport one year later despite being offered a neo pro contract by World Tour giants Orica-GreenEdge.

While bunch sprints are the daily bread of many flat pro races in China, Shen wants something different for the Tour of Fuzhou. “The city of Fuzhou is surrounded by mountains [like Mount Gu and Mount Qi but also Yunding where the finish of stage 2 is located at the end of a 15km climb] and Taiwan has even bigger climbs to offer with Alishan,” Shen explained.

“We’ll have to expand the race from three days now to five or seven. We’ll keep it in November because that’s a typhoon-free time in Taiwan. The goal is to upgrade to category 2.1 and later 2.HC but we’re not in a hurry. We want the riders from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau to develop together at the same rhythm and not be discouraged by competing against foreign cyclists who are too strong for them for now.”

Last week, Chinese president Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou held the first face to face meeting between the leaders of the two parties since 1945. It took place in Singapore and it was reported as a friendly handshake to continue restoring the political ties between their respective territories. Relationships have been characterized by tensions and instability since the end of the Chinese Civil War and the Kuomintang led by Chiang Kai-Shek retreating from Nanjing to Taipei in 1949.
Relationships have smoothened since 2008. In cycling, China and Taiwan are already united in the WorldTour under the banner of Lampre-Merida with Xu Gang and Feng Chung Kai. Through the Tour of Fuzhou, Shen wants cycling to be the first sport to make the “One China” vision a reality.

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