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Feature: Amateur cyclists take epic ride to Tibet

By Source:Xinhua 2022年06月22日 14:22

Zhang Jingzhong (L), who previously completed his race, accompanies Zeng Zhu (C) to hit the finishing line in Lhasa, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, May 29, 2022. (Xinhua/Sun Fei)

LHASA, June 3 (Xinhua) -- At a mountain pass with an altitude of more than 4,400 meters, Hou Weiyu found that a flying stone broke a spoke of his front wheel. He got off the bicycle, checked its conditions and got on it again, heading to Lhasa, the capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

Hou, 52, is among the 10 amateur contestants in a field cycling race that stretches more than 2,000 kilometers along the highway between Sichuan Province and Tibet.

On May 21, they set off from the city of Ya'an and rode across 14 high mountains, including two with heights exceeding 5,000 meters above sea level.

Despite a minor accident, Hou spent five days 17 hours and 26 minutes accomplishing the race.

"Unlike in the plain area, riding on the plateau requires much more energy, which is much more challenging," said Hou, who works for a cement supplier in Beijing.

Friday marks World Bicycle Day. Bicycles used to be a luxury for many Chinese families in the 1960s and 1970s. With the rapid economic and social development of the country, bikes have become a common household property. And as more and more ordinary Chinese own private cars in the 21st century, cycling is more about being a fashionable sport than a means of transportation.

The Sichuan-Tibet Highway has been considered an ultimate challenge favored by cyclists because of its beautiful landscape, complicated landform and high altitudes, attracting an increasing number of amateur riders in China.

For the event, the contestants were selected through a series of qualification competitions, such as the plateau race and the endurance race.

For safety reasons, the organizers arranged vehicles loaded with volunteers and first-aid equipment to follow the riders. But the riders would not be offered help unless they quit the race, said Jiang Wukai, founder of the race and also an amateur cyclist, adding that it is the ninth year for the race held.

About 19 hours after Hou hit the finishing line at the foot of Potala Palace, a landmark architecture in Lhasa, Zhang Jingzhong from the city of Shenzhen arrived, winning second place.

Zhang, an entrepreneur engaged in beef meatball production and sales, previously challenged the route twice, but both ended up in failure.

"I had to quit because of my severe high altitude sickness the first time. As for the second time, I fell and hurt my forehead when riding downhill," he said while taking off his helmet, revealing a scar on the forehead.

In a bid to conquer the altitude sickness, Zhang arrived in Sichuan half a month earlier this time and spent five days in a 4,000-meter-high area to adapt himself to the high-altitude environment.

During the race, he encountered heavy snow on a mountain and had to trek in the snow for some two kilometers while carrying the bike on his shoulder.

"Despite all the difficulties, I finally realized this ultimate dream. I think that's what an extreme challenge is all about," he said.

The riders who challenged their physical limits also won respect from people of different ethnic groups on the way.

Zeng Zhu, who won the eighth place, recalled that he lost his gloves halfway and went to a roadside store to buy a new pair.

"When the Tibetan boss saw me in my race suit, he refused to accept any money and gave me a thumbs up," said Zeng, a dietician trainer from Shenzhen.

Although in his 50s, the champion Hou has planned to ride for a few more years.

"My next goal is to attend the 1,200-km PBP (Paris-Brest-Paris) event," he said. 

Jiang Wukai (R) takes photos of Zeng Zhu, who just completed the cycling race, in Lhasa, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, May 29, 2022. (Xinhua/Sun Fei)

Jiang Wukai takes photos of contestants arriving at the finishing line in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, May 29, 2022. (Xinhua/Sun Fei)

Jiang Wukai (L) and Hou Weiyu (C) congratulate Zeng Zhu for completing the Sichuan-Tibet cycling race in Lhasa, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, May 29, 2022. (Xinhua/Sun Fei)

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