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Interview: Danny Feng - Geumsan Ginseng Continental Team
By Lee Rodgers
Date: 2/4/2010
Interview: Danny Feng - Geumsan Ginseng Continental Team

Interview: Danny Feng, Geumsan Ginseng Asia Continental Cycling Team
Interview with Danny Feng manager of the new UCI Asia Tour team  - Shinichi Fukushima leads the team with a calendar of races in Asia & Europe

2010 Geumsan Ginseng Asia/Specialized Continental Team

The 2010 Asian ProTour is soon to begin with the Tour of Langkawi, 1st to the 7th of March. One of the new teams that will take part in the ProTour is the Geumsan Ginseng Asia Continental squad. The team is packed with quality riders - not least the team captain, former Japanese champion Shinichi Fukushima - and their debut is hotly anticipated.

Geumsan County has supported a local amateur cycling team for the past 10 years, and was one of the top Korean teams under the guidance of team manager, Mr. Choi HeeDong. This year the team upgraded to UCI continental status and expanded to an international Asian continental team with 8 Korean, 3 Japanese and 3 SE Asian riders (Thai, Malaysian and Singaporean). For the first time, it'll promote its ginseng products via an international squad, which will be Korea's second team after the well established Seoul Cycling team.

The squad is aiming to be a Pro Continental team in 2011.

The Geumsan Ginseng Asia Continental Cycling Team`s Danny Feng took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about this exciting new project.

Lee Rodgers: Hello Danny! What do you do within the team?

Danny Feng: I am the business manager for Team Geumsan Ginseng Asia. I work closely with our sponsors and make sure we deliver great marketing value for them. I am also looking for additional sponsors in order to grow the team for the future.

LR: What exactly do your sponsors do?

DF: Our major sponsor is the local government of Geumsan County in Korea. Geumsan is famous for its ginseng products and it also has one of the biggest market of ginseng and medicinal herbs in Korea. Gemsan takes more than 80% of ginseng distribution in South Korea. Ginseng has long been used in Asia as health supplement and medicine. Cycling is a very healthy sport, so Geumsan County wants to promote its ginseng products, festival and tourism via our cycling team.

Our other major sponsor is our bike sponsor, Specialized. We are the only continental team in Asia to be sponsored by Specialized this year. We will be using Specialized's latest SL3 frames which is the same great bike used by top pro tour teams like Astana and Saxo Bank. Specialized will also provide us with their Body Geometry products such as helmet, shoes, saddle, gloves, etc.

Beside these major sponsors, we also have Meitan who is providing us with racing gels and supplements; Sport Bicycle Thailand who is also the Specialized distributor in Thailand; Entro Singapore is providing most of our riders with 3T bar and stem as well as aerobars for our Specialized Transition TT bike.

LR: What`s the philosophy behind the team?

DF: Our team philosophy is quite simple; develop Asian riders that have the potential, to become the best team in Asia and deliver maximum value for our sponsors.

2008 Le Tour de Langkawi: Top competitors Aurélien Clerc and  Shinichi Fukushima listen to the officials final instructions at the start of the final stage in Kuala Lumpur. Photo © 2010 Action Images

LR: Can you tell me a little about the riders?

DF: This year we have total 14 riders on the team. 8 Koreans, 3 Japanese, 1 Malaysian, 1 Thai and 1 Singaporean. Our team captain is Shinichi Fukushima, should not need much introduction, he is one of most respected and accomplished Asian riders. Shinichi has been Japan champion, won stage and best Asian jersey at the Tour de Langkawi, he has also won many other major races in both Asia and Europe. He brings both race experience and leadership to the team.

2009 Jelajah Malaysia Stage 4: Victory Anuar Manan  besting, Mohd Harrif Salleh and Sergey Kudentsov Photo © Jelajah Malaysia 2009

We also have very strong Korean riders like Kwon Jun Oh and You Gi Hong who is winner of 2009 Tour de Korea Stage 9. We have some of the best riders from SE Asia starting with Anuar Manan from Malaysia, who is one of the best sprinters in Asia - he won the green points jersey in 2008 & 2009 Jelajah Malaysia and wore the green jersey in the 2008 Tour de Langkawi as well.

Phuchong Saiudomsil from Thailand, he was the winner of KOM and 2nd GC overall in 2009 Tour of Thailand. Ji Wen Low is the current Singapore national champion and very good climber.

2008 Tour de Langkawi 2008: Shinichi Fukushima (Meitan Hompo/GDR) in the blue jersey of the top Asian G.C. rider's jersey shinichi finished 11th on the overall G.C.. Photo © 2010 Action Images

LR: Where and when will you be racing this year?

DF: We will kick off the season in Tour de Langkawi then head to the OCBC criterium in Singapore. We will then go to Duong TV cup in Vietnam, Tour of Thailand, Tour of Korea, Jelajah Malaysia, Tour of Japan, Tour of Singkaak or East Java in Indonesia, Tour of Qing Hai Lake in China. From July to Sept, we plan to have the team based in France and do some good races to give our riders more experience in Europe.

LR: How are you preparing pre-season?

DF: Most of our riders have been in Chiang Rai Thailand since mid January, Shinichi always has had training camp at Nason Resort in Thoeng for the last several years. It is an annual training camp which is open to other pro riders and young riders, which seems to be getting bigger each year. Yukiya Arashiro of Bbox Bouygues Telecom team is there also, and it's great to be able to train alongside a Tour de France rider.

LR: What are the team`s short-term goals?

DF: We definitely want to be one of the best and well known teams in Asia, we also want to develop our younger riders and get them exposed to European racing.

LR: And long-term?

DF: There is no doubt we want to be the 1st team from East Asia to enter the Tour de France, but it is easier said than done. Many teams have the same dream For example I worked for Equipe Asada/Meitan Hompo GDR cycling team for the last two years, the team manager Akira Asada did a really good job and pushed the team closer to the TDF than any other East Asian team but maybe the timing was not right.

In order for us to succeed we need to have strong long term sponsors and more riders like Shinichi and Yukiya, also we need strong public support for our team and for cycling in general in Asia so we can bring value for our sponsors in order to make this commitment to support us.

LR: Any thoughts on the quality of racing in Asia? Is it improving? Europe is still the proving ground for a rider, but can you see that changing?

DF: There is no question the level of racing in Asia has improved significantly. Just look at the Tour de Langkawi results. Wang Kam Pong was the first stage winner many years ago, in 2005 Shinichi’s brother Koji Fukushima not only become the 2nd rider to win a stage but also wore the yellow jersey for 5 days. Then Shinichi won a stage in 2007 and Seoul City Cycling team also won a stage in 2009. Not to mention numerous top 10 finishes by Malaysian and other Asian riders just in last few years.

But no question, European racing is still at higher level, which is the reason this summer we will send our riders to France and experience racing in Europe. Shinichi and Nara Motoi from our team have raced Europe for many years, so they know what is needed for our younger riders to succeed at that level. Shinichi helped Yukiya when he started racing and I know Shinichi can do the same for other Asian riders.

LR: Is the dream of an Asian-based European ProTour team just that, or do you see any hope of it becoming a reality?

DF: I absolutely believe an Asian-based European ProTour team can be a reality. As I mentioned earlier, in order for it to become a reality, the timing and many other factors must be right. The sponsors, riders and public support for the sport are all critical for cycling success in Asia. Cycling has long history and tradition in European countries such as Belgian, France, Italy and Spain but it is already becoming more international.

In recent years riders from countries like USA, Australia and UK have become more dominant in the Pro Tour. Also countries like Russia and Kazakhstan now have their own Pro Tour teams supported by their government and public, we need the same here in Asia. Also the sport of cycling is getting cleaner; I am convinced the level will be more par in the near future. Having superstars such as Lance Armstrong from the USA, Mark Canvendish from the UK, Cadel Evans from Australia, Denis Menchov of Russia - this certainly helped to promote the sports in their countries to the next level. Arashiro and Beppu finishing the 2009 TDF had huge impact for cycling in Japan already and that is just the first time any Japanese rider has completed the TDF.

I certainly believe this is the only the beginning and will help gather further momentum to produce the next champions from Asia.

LR: Any young riders from other teams we should look out for this season?

DF: There are several good young riders to look out for this season, but it is too early to say anything yet until we see their results in big races. Young guys can be overwhelmed if there is too much expectation or publicity, so I prefer let their legs do the talking. But one name should look out for is Muhamad Adiq Othman from Malaysia, he got some pretty good speed.

LR: Well Danny, thanks for your time, and all the best for this season and the future.

DF: Thank you.

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