A small white dog has become an unlikely web celebrity after completing an amazing feat of endurance accompanying a group of long distance cyclists across China, Xiao Sa - "Little Sa" managed the journey in 3 weeks on foot/paw following a team of cyclists.
Some of the details on this story of cycling/canine fellowship are it has to be said a little hazy - and yes the dog in question is shaggy, well it's cold on the Tibetan plateau, but various reports describe the cyclists she hooked up with as taking part in a race to Lhasa with a field of 300 that was finally whittled down to six riders… and a dog. We're not sure whether the race element of the story has gained something in translation in the long distance this tale has travelled from a remote part of the world but even allowing for that the pooch's feat is a remarkable one.
The history of canine involvement in cycling has not often been a happy one - typing "Tour de France dog" in to Youtube is enough to confirm that and then there were all those names of pro's pet pooches that cropped up in the files of the notorious Dr Fuentes during the Operation Puerto scandal. Xiao Sa's feat though goes some way to redressing the balance.
Xiao Sa's journey began when she (not 'he' as reported elsewhere) was spotted by a 22-year old student, Zhang Heng riding as part of a team cycling from Kangding in the Chinese province of Sichuan to Llhasa in Tibet across the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
"She was lying, tired, on the street around Yajiang, Sichuan province," he said. "So we fed her, and then she followed our team.
"We felt she might want to come along with us, so we decided to bring her along to the end." Zhang told the Chinadaily.com.
After a week the cyclists started a blog for the dog - as you would - the blog, Go Go Xiao Sa attracted 37,000 followers in 2 weeks. According to the China Daily report a picture of Zhang with Xiao Sa outside the Potala Palace in Lhasa posted on the blog last Thursday attracted 4000 comments. To get there they had covered over 1700km and climbed 10 mountains over 4000m and two over 5000m, the dog ran up them all, sportingly Zhang gave her a lift on the descents putting her on the back of the bike as he explained to the Chinadaily - she wouldn't have been able to keep up otherwise.
The riders reckon Little Sa is probably the first dog to run the 1700km route to Lhasa - and no doubt she is, although a rootle around the internet does throw up some footage of her riding in a small cage perched on a rear rack - though to be fair that was taken after dog and cyclists had reached Tibet.
Now at journey's end the toughest thing the little dog will have to do is decide what to do next - Zhang wants to adopt her and give her a home, but another of the cyclists she encountered on the road, Wang Zi is cycling on to Everest and hopes the dog will want to come too:
"If possible, I would like the dog to come with me, taking her to see a more splendid scene", he said.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.