Onwards and upwards. Not only does this simple phrase summarise the topography of today’s third stage, but it’s also a useful way to describe the fortunes of new race leader Hossein Alizadeh’s Tabriz Petrochemical Team. After a string of AsiaTour no-shows and confirmed financial troubles, the Iranian team has gotten it together in the right place at the right time.
At the conclusion of the 2011 season, Tabriz Petrochemical Team topped every category of the UCI AsiaTour rankings; best team, best nation, best rider (Mehdi Sohrabi). 2012 started with solid performances at Le Tour de Langkawi and Tour de Taiwan, then quickly unravelled. The team was invited to, and subsequently withdrew from, Tour de Korea, Le Tour de Filipinas, Jelajah Malaysia and Tour of Japan; thus missing four vital opportunities to gain points in the all-important AsiaTour rankings.
Though it will be difficult now for the embattled squad to finish the season at the very top of the UCI AsiaTour, Alizadeh’s victory today (from a 12-man breakaway) offers TPT, and its sponsor, a much-needed morale boost.
Mario Vogt, (Team Specialized Concept Stores), 55th in stage 3, 52nd on GC*
The third stage revisited Xining, where we had good memories because this is where the first stage took place. For the first time, we had a real mountain in the ‘HC’ category, with 3,400m to be conquered. Until that point, it was 60km of slight uphill on a highway where (team mate) Elchin (Asadov) was active and was represented in several groups; but not in the critical group of the day. The slope increased on a fairly wide street and a 4-man group broke away, driven by EPM-UNE from Colombia. These guys are already accustomed to the thin air at their home. Most of the others have to adapt (to the altitude in Qinghai) first. An 8-man group chased, followed by a larger group of 50 riders which included Chris (Springer), Alex (Surutkovych) and I. After the KOM [Note: at 84.8km], it started raining and there was still 60 kilometres remaining – without a single curve, or village, by a kind of prairie where only grass and small shrubs grew – to the finish. It was rather boring to have a bike race here, because you could still see 20km of straight road into the distance.
At the destination, the people celebrated with a kind of Chinese folk festival and music could still be heard loudly in the hotel rooms, which pretty much got on all our nerves. However, we have now reached Qinghai Lake again and, after chilling out after dinner a little (the rain had stopped by then again), I must say it is scenic; it is not too bad, because this isn’t anywhere like in Europe and who knows if you will ever get back to see this again…
*rough translation from Mario’s stage three entry on his team’s blog
CLASSIFICATION LEADERS AFTER STAGE THREE
Leaders (Yellow) Jersey (黄衫): Hossein Alizadeh (Tabriz Petrochemical Team)
Points (Green) Jersey (绿衫): Luka Mezgec (SAVA)
King of the Mountains Jersey (圆点衫): Hossein Alizadeh (Tabriz Petrochemical Team)
Best Asian Rider (Blue) Jersey (蓝衫): Hossein Nateghi (Tabriz Petrochemical Team)
STAGE THREE RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 3