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'Atomic Town' now heaven for cyclists


12:46, July 13, 2013

XINING, July 13 (Xinhua) -- Once known as "Atomic Town" in China, Xihai has been transformed into a heaven for cyclists from home and abroad.

Xihai Town, where the country's first atomic and hydrogen bombs were created in the 1960s, sits along the northern bank of the Qinghai Lake in northwest China's Qinghai Province.

The once-forbidden mysterious town has witnessed cyclists swarming to attend the Tour de Qinghai Lake, an international road cycling race since 2002.

"They have come here every year for the past 12 years," said Gyumtsho, a 77-year-old woman, who was sitting in the shade watching cyclists pass the finishing line of the fifth section of this year's race, which kicked off on Sunday.

Gyumtsho has witnessed enormous change in the town during the past five decades.

The town, which is 3,200 meters above sea level, was built on the site of Factory 221, launched in 1958 for the development of the country's nuclear weapons.

The factory was closed in 1987 and was handed over to the local government in 1993.

Most of the architecture of the factory has been kept as before. But the amount of radiation emitted by minor radioactive contaminants in Xihai is far below the level deemed safe by the Chinese government, after years of work to clear the radiation pollution.

Zhao Feng said he was proud of being a resident of Xihai, as the number of cyclists participating in the race grows every year.

A total of 154 cyclists from 16 countries and regions are competing for prizes worth 700,000 U.S. dollars this year.

With the growing influence of the race, amateur cyclists and tourists have swarmed into the town.

More than 300,000 people have cycled in the town in the past 11 years, said Feng Jianping, head of the provincial sports administration.

"Cycling here gives me a sense of traveling through space and time," said Li Xibei, who travels from neighboring Gansu Province to enjoy riding in Xihai.

China's largest cycling service base has been established in the town, which can serve 1,000 tourists with bicycle rentals and tutoring, maintenance, accommodation, dining and entertainment.

"In terms of scenery and facilities, Xihai is truly a heaven for cyclists," said Li.

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