In 2014, a new German professional cycling team was created. With new perspectives and unique stories, team BIKE AID wanted to inspire and arouse curiosity.
In their very first year, the team flew to China for the Tour of Qinghai Lake. Millions of spectators along the route, magnificent scenery and the hospitality of the people left the riders speechless. In Germany, the pictures and stories from a distant country met with great interest.
However, 2019 was the last trip to the Far East for the time being. Accordingly, the team was excited when they received the invitation to the Tour of Poyang Lake 2023. For the many new riders in the team, it was supposed to be the first trip to China at all. What can we expect there, how is the food, are we safe there? There were many questions.
A lot of things are done differently in China, that's for sure. The race format alone was not entirely plausible through the European eyes of cycling. There were two races, a UCI Tour over the course of five days and a national tour over the course of six days, which together formed the Tour of Poyang Lake 2023.
But the dimension of a national race in China can only be understood by those who have seen it for themselves. Be it the infrastructure, the media interest or the enthusiasm of the spectators. "Such races show us again and again what moves cycling worldwide and how little our Eurocentric thinking corresponds to the global reality. And it motivates us and hopefully others to dare to dream bigger again in this country and not to nip every activity in the bud in the bureaucratic minutiae," says Matthias Schnapka.
From a sporting point of view, things didn't go all that well for BIKE AID in the first part of the race. The team first had to find its way around China. Especially for young athletes like Jonas Beck, the trip was a challenge. The 18-year-old stagiaire from the BIKE AID Development Team has just graduated from high school and entered professional cycling at full throttle. He has just competed in the 10-day Volta Portugal and was then given the opportunity to set off on his first trip to Asia.
Anton Wiersma, the sporting director: "Everything was new for us on site, you don't understand the signage at the hotel buffet and when you ask for directions in English on the street, you look at smiling faces. We were in towns far away from tourism, where rarely a foreigner is seen. So although you were an exotic on the street, you felt welcome everywhere."
Things went much better for the team in the second part of the race. Stage four was a team time trial, which BIKE AID finished in second place. This laid the foundation for the later overall result. Dawit Yemane was particularly convincing in the mountains and in the end was only 15 seconds short of the overall victory. However, his second place in the general classification was a pleasing result and on top of that he won the KOM jersey.
The emotional highlight, however, was the victory of the team classification, which the entire team celebrated euphorically and which resulted from the joint effort of all riders.
However, to measure the success of such a trip only in terms of sporting results would not do it justice.
"The impressions and encounters on site have confirmed us again and again that it is the right thing to do to go there and get a picture of the country and the people for ourselves. We take so much with us from the hospitality of the people, but also from the enthusiasm for cycling when you see the incredible crowds of spectators along the route. Above all, it is inspiring to see the positive energy and effort with which sporting events are organised there. Especially against the backdrop of the constant discussions about the status of sports in Germany, you get the feeling that here we think more about why something doesn't work rather than looking ahead," says Matthias Schnapka.