Really? I am going to follow some Chinese guy through a hole in the fence to watch the final day of the Tour of Beijing? And pay him $100 RMB, each? OK!
Matt and I were more than a block away from seeing any action on the final day of the race, with no hope of getting any closer when to our surprise, a Chinese guy opened his bag and “Voila,” just happened to have passes to get us closer to the cyclists. We just had to follow him. We walked down the street behind him until we came to a fence that had previously been cut open. He rolled it back and pointed for us to go inside. I wasn’t too eager to go inside the cut fence, and it was becoming even more clear that he was selling illegal and forged passes. But we had come this far, so we may as well see what’s on the other side.
He impatiently kept motioning for us to go through the hole in the fence. I suggested he go first. Of course, he said. “No!” So I decided not to go any further. He really wanted the money so he said “Ok, Ok I go.”
We followed him through the fence and walked about 50 feet, when he stopped and pointed for us to go on. We were on the inside now with a much better view of the cyclists with the Bird’s Nest just a stone’s throw away. It was so tempting to get even closer. I suggested he keep walking, which he did for a bit but then he wanted his money. He wouldn’t go any further, so neither would I. After a bit of discussion, we turned around and left through the same hole in the fence we came through to get inside.
The Chinese guy wasn’t happy, but I didn’t want to get thrown into some Chinese jail for trespassing either. He went to find his next sucker!
The inaugural Tour of Beijing, the first ProTour race in Asia, started and finished at the Bird’s Nest which was the site of the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening and closing ceremonies. Not quite the French Alps in the background of mountain stage 4 but there was a pretty impressive view of The Great Wall.
Many of the cyclists were not happy about racing late in the season in a city known for so much pollution but since it was a Pro event, they were required to participate.
Many spectators were left unhappy as well. Fans were kept far away from seeing their favorite cyclists as they pedaled their final venue at the Water Cube. Including us, being tired from walking, and carrying our luggage we hopped in a taxi to see if it could get us any closer. A block or so down the road, we got out of the taxi and we were able to get much closer to the cyclists, pretty close in fact, well, closer than a block away I might add, and it was FREE! We didn’t even have to sneak through the fence. Perseverance pays off!
It wasn’t the quality of the Tour de France or even the Tulsa Tough, but it was a pro cycling event, none the less.
One of the key reasons behind the City of Beijing hosting the Tour of Beijing was to encourage more residents to ride rather than drive. But since spectators were kept at more than an arm’s length from viewing the cycling event, I do not know if they met their goal of inspiring people to ride bikes.
The route visited some impressive Asian landmarks such as the Beijing Water Cube, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall. It was fun and hopefully the race will progress over the next few years and organizers will meet with other race officials to enhance the quality of the Tour of Beijing. It was still fun, and the sights of Beijing were enjoyable, and throw in a good bike race and call it a great weekend in Beijing.