Tour of Qinghai Lake-Stage notes
Stage by Stage: I am under no illusion that this is going to be a boring post. So this is just for those interested in reading what the racing was actually like for me.
Prelude: Did very little. Goals for the criterium was to stay upright, continue my acclimatisation to racing at 2,500m and gain an insight into racing in Asia. Finished in the bunch.
Stage 1: After puncturing whilist returning from a “nature break” meant burning a lot of matches returning to the bunch. Massive thanks to Guss (mechanic) for his push (83km/hr) that got me back in the race caravan. This stage brought home the fact that whilist racing at altitute every effort has to be considered and weighed before commiting to it. Attacked solo with 30km remaining (lasted 5km). Finished in the bunch.
Stage 2: The first 84km was uphill. The last 30km of the hill were spent in the wind keeping Estifanos out of trouble. Dropped 3km from the top and despite chasing in never returned to the bunch. Finished in the third group.
Stage 3: After a very bad nights sleep I felt crap on the bike. Despite attacking early on I missed the break and with out motivation, strength or energy to fight for position in the wind I was dropped in the run in to the line. Finished 3rd Group. Whilist I was feeling sorry for myself Jan had attacked and was crossing to a leading group of two riders (that ended up 1st and 2nd on GC at the end of the tour). Unfortunately no one knew he was there and therefore he had no support from the team car in the form of hydration, sticky bidons or encouragement. He got within 5sec before fading and finally being caught by the bunch but it may as well have been 1hr.
Stage 4: Once again I was active in the early part of the race but missed the break. The race came back together over the Cat 2 climb. I attacked on the descent 25km before the finish but was caught once the gradient lessened 15km before the finish. Finished in 1st group.
Stage 5: The race really started today. The stage would take in a Cat 1. Climb and a HC climb. I attacked a number of times on the run in to the Cat 1 climb but no one was given much margin. Once on the climb I made a strong attack that looked like going away. Then it began to rain. The rain felt as cold as ice. Cold enough that it was making me hyperventilate. The rain forced the members of the break to quickly pull on what clothing they had. After this we were quickly bought back. I got my breathing under control and some clothes on and stayed in the front group over the top of the climb. I looked down at my speedo as I went over the top. 45km/hr! No wonder I was hurting and more than half the bunch was dropped. The bunch came back together on the run in to the next climb, which, would reach the high point of the tour (3987m). I was dropped 4km to the top of the climb and rode in with a small bunch. 3rd group.
Stage 6: I was the last attack that didn’t get away. Daniel made the break, which, was caught 5km before the line. I punctured with 10km to go. I didn’t bother chasing.
Stage 7: The sting in the tail of The Tour of Qinghai Lake began to show itself. 94km uphill before a 75km descent. I felt tired for the first 5km and was truly worried at how I would cope. A pinch 5km in woke my legs and I up. I was strong. I followed moves and attacked myself. Finally a break went after over 70km of hard and aggressive racing. The break included Estifanos Gebresillessie who managed a very strong 3rd at the end of the stage. The fact the break stayed away was incredible because the bunch was desending at 70km/hr for a long long time and we were truly moving in the run into the line yet taking very little time off the break. Bunch finish. Breakaway up the road.
Stage 8: 239km Xining to Lanzhaou. After a 4hr transfer from the previous stage, which, was the hardest of the tour had created a lot of tired bodies on the start line. Motivation was further crippled thanks to constant light rain. Once again Marco Polo made the break thanks to Loh (impressive how hard he fought to be in the move) who would later be joined by Daniel. The stage was lumpy with a general downhill trend so it was looking like a bunch sprint. The break was caught very early with 45km remaining. There was a final climb with 35km to go. I attacked hard on the climb and was away with a rider from Colanago CSF but was caught by the chasing bunch just over the top. I again tried on the descent into Lanzhaou but it was too easy for the bunch to maintain a high speed on the motor way into town. I avoided the carnage in the last 10km and finished 41st.
Stage 9: 93km Circuit race. Despite the fatigue of the previous nine days there was plenty of motivation. The racing reflected that as riders and teams searched for the last glory on offer. Fast is the only way to describe the racing. I waited. With 30km to go Michael Friberg from Fly V attacked. I went with him. We pushed massive gears and encouraged each other. Michael was incredibly strong and did the majority of the work. We were caught 10km to go as the sprinters hunted for the last stage.
Conclusion: I have to say that the 10th Tour of Qinghai Lake heavily favoured the sprinters and didn’t have much for the pure climbers or the all rounders. Personally I would like to see one really hard stage for the true GC contenders and at least one stage for the all rounder.
And now enough is enough is enough.
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