Saturday, 11 December 2010

Marco Polo, the story - part 2

Following on from part one of our Marco Polo story we take things up as the whole game gets serious.

For a few of year’s major teams have been keen to take on an Oriental Asian rider, often as a PR exercise, though things have rarely gone beyond the stagier level. But standards in the east have risen rapidly, and the leading Chinese Marco Polo team rider, Fuyu Li was, at the head of things.
With sponsors, and particularly Trek China, very keen to increase their brand awareness in China the relationship that started with bike sponsorship of the team lead to the arrival of the first ever Chinese Pro Tour rider in 2007; Fuyu Li, who spent time with the Discovery Channel team and latterly Radioshack; “Not only did Trek show a real interest in having Li on board, it seemed the Discovery Channel themselves also had serious interests in China, and so we negotiated a deal.” Explained Remko. But we all know the ultimate fate of the world’s leading team.


Unfortunately Li was one of the casualties of the team’s demise, and he was been forced to take a step backwards, returning “home” with Marco Polo, and duly won a stage in the Jelayah Malaysia. Unfortunately Fuyu tested positive from Clenbuterol last year - the same substance as Alberto Contador.
The deal broke with Trek, Marco Polo and the Discovery Channel lead to the team becoming closely related to it’s illustrious older brother, and indeed gave longer term hopes of becoming a feeder team for young Asian riders; “ It gave the team the budget to run a great racing and training program, and also to get the complete team together in the beginning of the year. We also had several months of racing in Europe, which is perfect for the development of Asian riders. It also gave Marco Polo Cycling the perfect connection towards the Protour.”
Sadly the withdrawal of sponsorship from Discovery Channel, and ultimately the ending of the Protour team also affected the Marco Polo set up; “ Since Tailwind Sports Management decided to step out of cycling we had been talking to several interested new parties for 2008. Good talks, but due to various reasons they did not lead to a new main sponsor for the team - Trek bicycles stepped in to help and supported the team until 2009, Now the team is supported by Musseuw bikes.

A few years back the idea of an Asian rider competing in the Tour de France seemed crazy, and the prospect of an entire team would of been laughed at; but times they are a changing. A big part of the process of getting Asian riders to that level is based around teaching them the basics that often come as second nature to European riders. Three years back Marco Polo made a big step in helping their “grooming process” by signing the experienced Leon Van Bon; “Leon van Bon wanted to decide for himself on how to finish his career. And racing in the Marco Polo Cycling Team offered him the chance to have an interesting racing program and also to take up the challenge to work with talented riders from Asia. Leon wants to pass on his experience to the younger riders and help them to have a successful career at the top level. We believe that the development of Asian talents needs the experience and influence from western riders and management. Therefore we always have a mix of riders to have the best balance in the team.
You can join the marco Polo cycling Club at www.marcopolocyclingclub.com