Raise the red lantern

bike w

For a country so associated with the bicycle, it has always been something of a mystery why China has not produced world class cyclists. A 27 year-old from Harbin tried to change that this year by competing in the Tour de France, which finished last Sunday. Ji Cheng made history by becoming the first Chinese racer to finish the epic 3,659km tour, even if he did so by finishing dead last.

In fact Ji came 164th and clocked a total time that was six hours behind the event’s winner, Vincenzo Nibali of Italy. That earned him the Tour’s lanterne rouge (red lantern – the title given to the final finisher, and at the other end of the honours scale to the victor’s yellow jersey). As AFP also notes, Ji suffered the indignity of being lapped by the peloton on the final stage as racers did circuits of the Champs Elysees in Paris. Ji kept his chin up, saying he felt “pretty lucky” to complete the race (34 other competitors dropped out). But he also admitted it will take more than his own experience of the Tour to transform the sport in China. “Maybe I can show them something, but I cannot change anything,” he admitted.

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