For the second consecutive day, riders gathered near Southbridge in the early morning light for the second stage of Haute Route Qingcheng. Joining the Haute Route peloton on the first 16km of the course, around 500 local people participated in the Qingcheng Bicycle Festival this morning and got the chance to ride any kind of bike through downtown Dujiangyan and the outskirts of the city on fully closed roads.
After a dancing show and a Taichi demonstration, Haute Route riders set off on the 132-km course encouraged by officials from the city of Dujiangyan, Xingzhi Exploring and Haute Route. Featuring 2,430 metres of climbing with the ascents of Xiange-Hongkou Pass and Qingcheng Mountain Road, stage 2 promised to be more challenging than the previous stage – especially under the rain.
Participants started the stage with a secured convoy of 16km out to the first timing mat located in front of the Andaman eco-tourism village. On their way to the first ascent of the day up to Puzhang Road, they were able to enjoy an incredible atmosphere as they crossed small villages cheered on by the inhabitants and rode through kiwi and bamboo plantations typical of the Sichuan Province.
Grabbing a banana at the first feed station before heading down, Haute Route veteran and founder of Two Wheel Tours, Will Levy said: “A bit foggy here but it’s great. It was beautiful going through the bamboo plantations.”
After the descent, riders encountered the ascent of Xiange-Hongkou Pass, the main ascent of the day with some ramps at over 12%, followed by a winding descent to Hongkou. Riding up and down a narrow and meandering road, riders could enjoy the unspoilt nature and some unreal sceneries offered by the clouds trapped at the top of the surrounding mountains.
The stage continued with a long drag in the valley towards the foot of the Qingcheng Mountain, passing by the Chengdu Field Research for Giant Pandas. Climbing up one of the most famous Taoist mountains in China, participants then faced 20km on a hilly terrain to cross the finish line located at the foot of the magnificent Gate of Mountain Qingcheng.
Tired but elated after the stage, 乔志 刘 from China said: “I live in Chengdu since many years so I rode a couple of times here. I’m more used to these tracks than other riders. Nice organisation and great staff. Maybe we will get a chance to have another event in China for Haute Route in the following years.”
At the finish, Australian rider Shannon Bufton who lives in China was already looking forward to his next Haute Route event: “It was hard, much harder than yesterday with a lot more climbing and the weather made it pretty tough but this is how it should be. That’s why we are here for and it was good! I decided to participate because the Haute Route is well known and I would love to do one event in Europe so I wanted to try out and see how it’s like. I now hope to ride in Europe sometime soon.”
Hendrikus Van Nistelrooij from the Netherlands was also enjoying his first Haute Route experience: “It was fun. Any weather has its own kind of satisfaction. If you complete it in a weather like this in a way it feels even better. It was not an easy stage but that was also part of the challenge. It was very good, landscape is awesome. It’s beautiful when it’s clear, it’s beautiful when it’s foggy – it’s something else. I live in Beijing so I cycle a lot in Beijing and I’ve cycled also on other parts of China but I haven’t had the chance to ride here so this was the perfect opportunity to travel down and see this area. No regret on that.”
At the front of the race, 邵俊旗 won the stage in the men’s category and 刘芊箬 was the fastest female rider over the finish line in the women’s category.
Tomorrow, every participant will live the race of truth on the 14km ascent of Puhong Road before becoming finishers of the inaugural edition of the Haute Route Qingcheng.