By Sportswriters Li Yafang, Li Linhai
XINING, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- Cycling has been an inseparable part in Dong Xiaoyong's life since he was 16. Since that time, he tasted both joy and bitterness because of his passion for the sport.
"I am 30 this year," said Dong with a concerned expression, "an age a little bit old for a rider, but I'll never give up cycling."
Dong, a rider from the Qinghai Tianyoude Cycling Team, was born in 1988 in northwest China's Qinghai. As a son of a former cyclist, he was attached to his bicycle from a very young age.
When he reached middle-school age, he got a used bicycle from his father Dong Mingfa, who was then a rider with the Qinghai Cycling Team.
That bicycle became Dong Xiaoyong's childhood companion, guiding him on his cycling journey.
In 2004, after Dong graduated from middle school, he went to the Qinghai Sports School and started training as a cyclist with the school's cycling team.
Although the training was tough, and the future was unknown, he insisted on pursuing his dream.
"It was really hard at the very beginning. We had to run around 10 kilometers and ride about 60 to 150 kilometers each day, rain or shine," Dong recalled.
"After a whole day's training, my bottom hurt, and my head ached. I couldn't even climb to my bunk bed," he said.
All those pains have since turned out to gains. Dong's diligence paid off.
In 2005, he took part in the 3rd Tour of Qinghai Lake and was one of only three riders of his seven teammates to complete the race. In 2006, he became the champion of cycling in the junior class at the Qinghai Provincial Sports Games.
Ten years later in 2016 Tour of Qinghai Lake, Dong was awarded Blue jersey as the Best Asian Rider in stage one.
He has become a professional cyclist and also the pride of his team and his family. For those years, as long as Qinghai Tianyoude Cycling Team joins Tour of Qinghai Lake, Dong's father went to the starting point and presented each rider a hada, a long, scarf-like white silk used by the Tibetans for blessings.
TOGETHER, WE WIN
In 2008, Dong went to Switzerland for training. That overseas journey improved his skills a lot, and brought him a lifelong friend and future teammate as well.
The active and outgoing Chinese boy made many friends in Switzerland. The Venezuelan rider Yonnatta Monsalve was one of them.
Although they spoke different languages, one Spanish, and the other Chinese, they had no problem understanding each other. Eye contacts or gestures are enough for exchanging information.
On May 2017, these two close friends finally met in China and became teammates.
Yonnatta was officially signed as a rider of Qinghai Tianyoude Cycling Team.
"I was surprised and excited when I heard that Yonnatta would join our team. It's really good to fight shoulder to shoulder for honor of our team," Dong said.
In 2017 Tour of Qinghai Lake that finished on July 29, Yonnatta kept yellow jersey as the stage winner for 5 stages and at last succeeded the Grand Champion.
"It's hard to win one yellow jersey, but it's much harder to keep it," said Dong. "Because over 20 teams strugglled against us, trying to grab it."
Although Tianyoude Cycling Team is not the best team, it is one of the most united teams. To protect Yonnatta and keep yellow jersey, Dong Xiaoyong and all the other teammates always rode to the fore, and dealed with challanges as they arose.
At stage 9, Dong was exhaused and had to withdraw the competition halfway. With the efforts of the whole team, Yonnatta successfully kept yellow jersey.
Seeing Yonnatta standing on the top podium, Dong cried like a kid. "It's been a rough race for everyone. It is really so hard," he said.
SCARS AND TEARS
As a rider, Dong has given up a lot. Injuries and scars for him are almost like badges of honor.
At one stage of 2010 Tour of Qinghai Lake, Dong tumbled and flew off from his bicycle while he was speeding up and sprinting in the last 500 meters. He was severely abraded that time.
"It hurt like being burned by a lighter. I was in so much pain that I couldn't stop crying at night," Dong said. "But I had to bear it and continue racing the next day.
In a National Cycling Race held in 2015 in Jilin Province, the wheels of his bicycle broke when he almost reached the final stage. Dong was thrown off the bike and badly hurt.
At another time, he lost a medal. He says losing the medal left him in much more pain and regret than the physical pain itself did.
Pains and scars are everywhere on Dong's body after years of cycling. Meanwhile, aging worsened the physical impact.
Dong Xiaoyong said he is going to retire after the National Athletic Games this year, but he would never stop cycling.
"Cycling is like my life, with ups and downs, but anyway, we should be down-to-earth and keep going forward," Dong Xiaoyong said.