Downhill Racing in China's Gui De Geological Park

Sep 4, 2019
by Scott Rapoport  

China's West is mountainous, vast and visually stunning. The Utah-esque region of Gui De County, located in remote Qinghai province, is home to one of the country's most unique landscapes. Situated on the north-eastern portion of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, the Gui De National Geological Park offers some ideal terrain for downhill mountain biking. On August 24th, the park hosted its third Gui De TDRY International Downhill Race. With riders hailing from around the country and the globe, it provided a great venue to delve into the current state of the Chinese DH scene.

All watermarked photos taken by Deng Xin Yuan

Offering up a prize purse of 230,000 RMB (around $32K), the race attracted riders from almost every part of China. Participants this year were from 20 provinces and 10 countries, making it China's largest downhill event. For this year, the Gui De (pronounced like Gway Duh) race is part of the larger Northwest Downhill Race series, and participants were able to obtain points necessary to qualify for the series' final. The Northwest series has races spread throughout Qinghai, Gansu and Xinjiang Provinces, some of China’s most remote and mountainous regions, with terrain ranging from the Himalayas to the Gobi Desert.

The race's opening ceremony had performances by locals in traditional attire

Crowded scene on a small ridge at the start gate

SLH (seen on this rider's jersey) is a Shanghai based bike shop that supports dozens of Chinese racers

At least the dirt was pretty soft...

On race day, dozens of locals turned out to help racers push their bikes to the top

Cai Ji Ling, a professional racer from Taiwan, won the women's category

Kaiser from Xinjiang

The two racers in orange are Max Jakubowski and Florian Kulike of Germany's Carbocage Factory Racing team

Looking like mars...

Lots of lizards in attendance

The race was started and organized by Zhang Rui of TDRY, the company that manages the Gui De National Geo Park. Being a downhill enthusiast himself, Zhang dreamed of building and promoting the sport in Northwest China. It was important to him to help create a stage for riders in this area to gather and communicate, and to ride with racers from throughout the country and the world. In 2016, Zhang invited the Australian Dirt Art team to design and build the area's first downhill racetrack. In 2017, the organizers brought in TrailScapes, a professional trail building team also based in Australia, to expand and renovate the venue. With no race in 2018, this year’s track was renovated by the Chinese team Quan Neng Ti Yu. The racetrack was loose, steep and exposed, with a number of features spread throughout its length. The trail builders did a fantastic job of creating a fun and challenging trail while only minimally affecting the natural beauty and geological layout of the area.

Xiao Cong from Hunan, one of China's fastest racers
Tang Meng Qi, also known as KK (if you couldn't tell from the K shaved into his head), won this race back in 2016

Some seriously steep shoots

Mesum Verma, pictured here, is a Swiss who has been living in China for the last ten years. He is the founder of MTB Mag Asia, and is one of the most influential people in the Chinese mountain bike scene.

The race organizers, Zhang Rui (right) and Wang Zhi. Big thanks to these guys.

The race announcer Ricki Huang

In addition to the downhill race, a 2X competition was also held. Not a bad backdrop for a course.

Yutaka Tamaru, a professional downhiller who made the trip from his home country of Japan, grabbed 3rd place for the day

Bai Qing Yao from Lanzhou throwing a nice table

Building a steep lip to attempt some backflips. It would lead to some serious crashes and some serious steeze

Nong Zheng, pictured here, recently won China's Red Bull Pumptrack World Championship Challenge, and will be heading to the international finals

He Jun Yuan (known as Xiao Yuan) is one of China's most talented freeriders, and would be the only one to land a backflip off this jump

Xiao Yuan stomping the landing

The Chinese Elite podium. 1st Song Jia Yi 2nd Ye Zheng Wu 3rd Zhou Xiao Long

International podium. 1st Max Jakubowski 2nd Florian Kulike 3rd Yutaka Tamaru

Open podium. 1st Zhang You Lun 2nd Nong Zheng 3rd Song Yan Xi

While a majority of large bike companies do at least a portion of their manufacturing in this country, there are few that actually support the Chinese DH mountain bike community. Domestic brands (such as RST Suspension) and Asia based bike companies (Polygon) seem to be the only ones directly involved with races and sponsorships. The Chinese mountain bike scene has been around for a while, but due to a number of factors (including the trade war), the scene has recently been floundering. The last year has seen an exodus of bike companies pulling out of China, both in manufacturing and the consumer market. Bike marketing in China is certainly no easy feat; most products are sold through retail venders on the website Tao Bao (a Chinese online marketplace larger than all US e-commerce sites combined), who are often businessmen rather than riders. This creates a void in which there is a serious lack of direct, on the ground support for the development of mountain biking in China. But the scene is progressing, held together by passionate, dedicated riders and racers. It is through races like this that the community grows, and it is the hope of Chinese riders that it continues to do so.

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  • 14 1
 That's an amazing write-up Scott! I knew you would come up with some fantastic words after riding such astonishing landscape. And it is well said in your last paragraph. I've been to World Cup races, Whistler Bike Park and Sea Otter Classic in the past ten years and truly felt the enthusiasm from racers, fans, and even industrial personnel. I was overwhelmed, enjoyed and a little jealous that we don't have those in our own country. There are many talented young riders in China, who dream big, and ride with their styles. However, since this sport (especially DH) is minor in our country, instead of becoming professional racers, their dreams can only be shelved and covered with dust.

It is unfortunate and unfair that our national cycling assosication just seems to ignore this little bunch of people who loves riding down through the mountains. We (currently) don't have a national championships for downhill, not to mention selecting racers to attend UCI downhill events. China used to be called "Kingdom of Bikes", but that was only because bikes were the best tools to commute decades ago. Actually, that was not helping this sport growing at all. Our last generation usually would consider bikes as a tool, not sport equipment. Thus many young riders would get resistance from their parents or family.

But things are getting better (at least we hope so). People's concept or perspective are moving forward. More and more people accepted the fact that a good bike is more expensive than a relatively lower-end automobile. And recent years there are more and more pump tracks appear in China (Velosolutions are doing their jobs). Especially those balance bikes for kids make parents realize how much happiness this two wheel thing can bring. So the future is bright.

China is vast, we have amazing landscape, numourous trails in those enormous mountains, and nice people. We welcome those who truly love cycling to ride in such a beautiful land, to experience and explore the time-honored culture with their eyes and wheels. I believe the mysterious oriental land will no longer be mysterious once you are in there.
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 @cuddyyuan: 谢谢蛋叔。
  • 1 0
 @milanboy1986: 谢谢蛋叔。文采可以
  • 3 0
 Here is the link to the 2017 race report by the TrailScapes builders - . Also shoutout to my friend Josh for letting me borrow his camera.
  • 4 0
 O.G. Course builder here. Hit me up if you ever want any historic pictures from the inaugural event here! Such a place! I'd love to get back and build more in the future!
  • 3 0
 Nice work out there! I think lots of the track was still the original from you guys.
  • 3 0
 I would love to roll some rubber on that dirt!!! looks amazing. Awesome to see the sport I love is loved by so many different cultures.
  • 2 0
 It's insane how much this looks like Green River or somewhere in Utah. Even after Where The Trail Ends, I had no idea terrain like this existed here.
  • 3 0
 Yep, and UCI "world" cup circus still racing same old places around the world...
  • 3 0
  • 2 0
 Super cool, Scottay! Nice to see our eastern brothers and sisters getting dirty.
  • 2 0
 AWESOME SCOTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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