Named ‘Hui’ for friends, teammates and staff. Straight from China. Owner of some great tattoos.
What about him?
Together with Shimano, we scout the Asian market for talents. There is for sure a lot of talent there, but they need the right development (and patience) to make it to the European pro scene. We are convinced it’s possible, but only when we are able to work with the Asian riders from a young age. The more we can teach them at an early stage, the better.
Zhihui Jiang was one of the talents who came up in our scouting reports. He had great potential, great ITT in his legs, some good data and he was just 19 years old. People around him told us he was dreaming of becoming a pro rider in Europe and that he was ready to make the necessary sacrifices for that.
That was exactly what we wanted to hear, so we took him on board. He arrived in June 2015 at Schiphol airport without speaking one word of English. Our Academy Manager Bart van Haaren had to guide him by using Google Translate. But he looked fresh, hungry and ready to learn.
How did he perform?
Fantastic. His biggest achievement was for sure the way he dealt with the whole situation. Very positive, hard working and focusing on his English. He wanted to communicate, and as fast as possible. The fact he thought he could smoke as bike rider (normal in China) was a hurdle to overcome, but he realised soon enough that was not the way forward.
His English improved week after week and so did his riding. He impressed the entire team during criteriums (which he liked to race) in the Netherlands. He was able to finish on the podium and race for the win. Especially in his second year, he stepped up and during the training camp in Loutraki ‘Hui’ was the rider to beat. It was him who gave Jenthe Biermans a hard time in every training final.
At Tour de Bretagne he came close to a stage win and his performance at Paris-Roubaix U23, as the first ever Chinese rider, was outstanding. His numbers went up, his English got better. He was respected and loved by everyone in the Academy and in his ‘Eindhoven’ Hui was a well-known character.
What was next after the Academy?
We received offers from teams all the time. Hui was hot on the market. WorldTour Team Lotto Jumbo had the best plan. First, they would take Zhihui on board as trainee and during the 2017 season he would become part of the team. The traineeship was a huge success. While the Lotto-Jumbo staff received a lot of criticism for taking Hui on board, he proved them right by delivering some great performances on pro level. Especially at the last race of the season, Putte-Kappellen, where he did some impressive work.
Hui headed back to China and he would join our training camp again at the begin of the new season. Sadly enough, Hui would never return to Europe. The system in China forced him to stay in his own country and race for his province. The Chinese cycling federation took his dream away from him for reasons we don’t know and can’t understand. It’s a sad story. Hui is a great kid and a very special member of the Academy. We wish him all the luck.