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