Tour of Qinghai Lake

06Aug11

It probably hasn’t been worth the wait but here it is. Better late than never. The Tour knocked me around more than I expected it to and it took me a good two weeks to feel human again. The reason after that is procrastination. The words below were written on the plane on the way home.

Writing about my experience of The 2011 Tour of Qinghai Lake is going to be a bigger challenge than the actually riding the race. Over the course of my time in China, which, included 1 prelude criterium, 9 stages and a handful of training rides there were so many experiences that it’s hard to know where to begin and where to finish.

The Present:

Right now I can’t wait to get back to Geleen. I am craving a good cup of coffee, Nutella on toast (fresh bread) and some fresh fruit.  If I look deeper these small cravings are merely the outward signs of me wanting to return to a familiar environment.

Statue at The High Altitude Training Centre near Xining

China was a big step into a very different culture and Qinghai province, where the race was held, was a big step inside of that culture. I was certainly outside of my comfort zone. The stories of bad (“un-safe”) food made me question everything I in-jested and this was just the tip of the iceberg.

Cyclists on a promotional poster for the tour

So really what I am craving is relaxation. I can’t wait to be in an environment that I trust (apart from European Cucumber). My bed, my kitchen, my living room. I am looking forward to kicking up my feet tomorrow morining and enjoying a cup of coffee and Nutella on toast while reading cyclingtipsblog as well as reconnecting with the social media I have been without during my time in China.

My mate

The Experience and Expectations:

I travelled to Qinghai Lake with many expectations. Fortunately none of my negative expectations were met. The Iranians weren’t head and shoulders above the rest of the peloton, the food didn’t poison half the peloton and the course wasn’t impossible.

Crowd control heading home

The experience of racing along the Tibetan Plateau was breath taking (pun intended). Not only was I  (at times) racing with 66% of the oxygen available at sea level but the sceneary was amazing.

Qinghai Lake in the background. On the plateau

The support from the locals was incredible. I think I signed over 1000 autographs and had my picture taken by more than 100 people. I’m kind of a big deal in China. The crowds were on par with any major bike race around the world. The last stage saw spectators standing 10 or 20 deep just to catch a glimpse of the race. The people even lined the road to watch the race convey drive by during transfers.

Autograph hunters

The organisation of the race was almost perfect and the opening and closing ceremony (broadcast on National TV) were testimant to how well the Chinese can put on a show.

Opening ceremony. Broadcast live on National TV

Closing ceremony

New Friends:

Whenever you spend a prolonged period of time with a group of people you are bound to make a few friends. I must have something to do with the shared experience of pain but bike racing seems to create and destroy friendship easier than most other endevours. Luckily for me The Tour only strengthened my bond to my team mates and created new friendships.

Guss (mechanic), Christian (jack of all trades) and Janeke (room mate)

The Race:

I went to the race searching for a stage win. I tried and tried but in reality never really put myself in a position to take one of the stages. A mixture of bad luck (punctures), bad positioning, other duties, and unfavourable finishes for a rider of my abilities (not a climber and not a sprinter) meant that my attempts came to nothing.

Yet I finish the tour satisfied. I was able to help my team and team mates, I felt stronger as the race progressed and I learnt a lot about racing.

Certainly I feel some fatigue but mentally and physically I feel extremely good. From here I rest and make sure I recover properly from the 10 days of racing before seeing what form I have gained from The Tour.

During a transfer

Current Expectations:

Knowing how my body will respond to the stress of racing 10 days at altitude is oddly an unknown. From other riders previous experiences you will either be flying or creeping.

The positive is that I felt stronger as the raced progressed, however, only time will tell wether it has helped or hindered my season. It certainly has left me with a better insight into where my physical strengths and weakness are on the bike and therefore has given me a clear direction to head with my training.

Lanzhou. Final Stage

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3 Responses to “Tour of Qinghai Lake”

  1. 1 wade

    Loved the post Nick. Never too late to write about something like Tour of Qinghai Lake. The race has always fascinated me and I wish I had the chance to do it. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Very nice mate! Good point of view for such a random country!

  3. 3 Guus (Guss)

    Nice story (and picture..) Nick!


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