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“This then led to the goal of having the first Chinese rider at the Tour and for that to now actually be happening is amazing," Ji says

Photo: Team Giant-Shimano

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26.06.2014 @ 16:45 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Yesterday it was announced that Giant-Shimano have selected Cheng Ji for their Tour de France roster and he will become the first ever Chinese to line up at the world's biggest race. Ji is looking forward to making his debut and hopes to contribute to the globalization of the sport.

 

Team Giant-Shimano’s Cheng Ji will create history next week when he becomes the first Chinese rider to start in the world’s most famous cycling event, the Tour de France.
 
Ji has already been a ground-breaker, after becoming the first Chinese rider to start in a Grand Tour, when he rode the Vuelta a España in 2012, a feat he repeated in 2013 at the Giro d’Italia.
 
"Together with the team I have worked on a long-term plan to develop and be able to race at the highest level of the sport,” Ji said.
 
“This then led to the goal of having the first Chinese rider at the Tour and for that to now actually be happening is amazing."
 
“It has been a lot of hard work to get here but with a good programme of training and racing, and having learned a lot from the other riders on the team I have made a step up and I cannot wait to start the Tour and I hope to inspire my compatriots back home in China,” he added.
 
The 26-year-old, whose family live in Beijing, captured the attention of Chinese media and cycling fans last year at the Tour of Beijing when he made his debut in his home UCI WorldTour event. He rode strongly in support of his team and finished 69th on the general classification.
 
Ji is one of the nine-man Team Giant-Shimano team that hopes to win a stage with the likes of German sprinters Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb.
 
In announcing the squad, Team Giant-Shimano coach Rudi Kemma said Ji will play a strong role in assisting the sprinters achieve the team’s Tour goals.
 
“When we started working with him as a young talented rider back in 2008 we made a long-term plan and this has seen him develop into the highest level of the sport and we see him now playing an important factor in the sprint formations,” Kemma said in a statement.
 
“Having Cheng in the team as the first Chinese rider ever to ride the Tour de France will be huge for him and his country and we look forward to seeing the impact this has on the Globalisation of the sport.”
 
Other riders in the squad which will start in its fourth Tour de France include road captain Roy Curvers (NED), starting his third Tour,  Dries Devenyns (BEL) starts his first Tour for the team, while Koen De Kort (NED) and Tom Veelers (NED) will act as key lead-out members for Kittel and Degenkolb.  Albert Timmer (NED) returns for his second consecutive Tour and 23-year-old time improving time trialist Tom Dumoulin (NED) returns for his second Tour.
 
Timmer, Veelers and Ji all rode the 2013 Tour of Beijing under the banner of Argos-Shimano.
 
Cheng Ji’s selection in the Tour de France is also a huge boost to cycling in China and their hallmark UCIWorldTour event, the Tour of Beijing.
 
Global Cycling Promotion director Alain Rumpf, who is responsible for the Tour of Beijing project, said the global and Chinese media coverage of Cheng Ji’s Tour de France selection was indicative of the potential to continue to grow cycling in new markets like China.
 
“The UCI's commitment is to lead the development of cycling as a competitive sport and activity in all its forms.  In that sense the Tour of Beijing is more than a race, it is a platform for the whole sport in China: teams, sponsors, fans and last but not least riders,” Rumpf said.
“The Tour of Beijing is proud to provide the opportunity for Chinese riders to shine in front of their home crowd and a worldwide audience.”
 
“Cheng Ji riding in the Tour de France is a huge achievement for him and Chinese cycling, and we congratulate Team Giant-Shimano for the time, effort and energy they have shown in developing his talent since 2009.  His selection will take cycling in China to a whole new level.”
 
Ji is a former runner who switched to the strong Chinese track cycling program in 2002 before moving to the road.
 
Since joined the Giant-Shimano team in 2008 when it was known as Skil-Shimano, it has been his work ethic and focus on improvement that has won the admiration of his team and teammates. Vuelta a España and Giro d’Italia he now achieves his lifelong ambition of riding in the Tour de France.
 
Already this year Ji has raced at the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Fleche Wallone UCI WorldTour events, along with the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya and Tour of Dubai.
 
Ji will be seeking to better his best previous Grand Tour result, having withdrawn from the Giro d’ Italia after stage five in 2013, he finished 175th on the General Classification of the 2012 Vuelta.
 
The 101st edition of the Tour de France begins in Yorkshire on Saturday 5th of July.
 
The fourth edition of the Tour of Beijing will run from Friday 10th to Tuesday 14th October and the route for the 2014 event will be announced following the completion of the Tour de France.

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