After three mountainous stage, today’s long but topographically-moderate parcours produced a mass sprint, from which Andalucia’s Juan José Lobato claimed his first stage win in Asia. Race leader Hossein Alizadeh retained his slim general classification advantage over Lobato’s teammate, Javier Ramirez, with Champion System’s Cameron Wurf oh-so-close behind.
Andalucia went into stage five with a view to contain the peloton over the duration of the downhill-tending stage; a sign of confidence in their man from Cádiz. The former Spanish junior road cycling champion put his track-racing speed to good use in the finale, narrowly edging out Team Type 1 – Sanofi’s Kiel Reijnen and RusVelo’s Artur Ershov. It wasn’t all sunshine and champagne for Andalucia though, with Antonio Cabello Baena suffering a heavy fall in the final kilometres. A broken nose and one-way ticket back to Spain was Cabello’s only reward for his hard work.
Without taking anything away from Andalucia’s success, it could be argued the well-funded ProContinental team should indeed perform well against a majority-UCI Continental field. Hossein Alizadeh’s Tabriz Petrochemical Team – with riders also in 4th, 16th, 28th, 71st, 131st and 133rd on GC at this year’s Tour of Qinghai Lake - finally appears to be back on track, following mysterious withdrawals from several AsiaTour events so far this year. Ali Abdolzade, TPT’s Assistant Sports Director, kindly agreed to shed some light on the mysterious and prolonged absence of the Iranian team that won the 2011 UCI AsiaTour teams classification.
CiQ: What is the team’s status regarding sponsorship?
AA: The main sponsor of our team is Tabriz Petrochemical Co. The company belongs to NPC (National Petrochemical Company); NPC is one of the 4 major companies (that comprise the) Oil Ministry of Iran. The government now plans to privatize the company due to the ‘Country Vision 2020′. The new directing board simply do not like to have a cycling team any more and they have one reason for this: cutting the costs. But (a big but), the story is not like they wanted. The provincial governor (of East Azerbaijan, of which Tabriz is the capital) is keen on sports in general, and cycling has its own traditional roots in the region, so they (have been) backing the team all the time; it was a matter of their discussions during the last couple of months. If they (don’t) reach a common agreement, there are other interested sponsors – richer and stronger than TPC - who can manage the work. Last year, we (received a proposal from) a potential sponsor from Oman; the problem was that they wanted us to change the name of team for 3 years.
Is the team now financially stable?
To tell the truth, the team has been financially stable all of the time. The bureaucratic situation is the most problematic thing, not finance. To spend any “Penny” we must follow the special rules, and the Government has its own standards – this (practice) is generally accepted worldwide. However, the problem is you need permission to do everything. It’s time-consuming and not compatible with the nature of cycling; everything in this area happens too fast!! Without written permissions, our hands are tied. I think to be compatible with the world cycling process we have to eliminate some unnecessary processes; something I am a little bit doubtful on!
So did Tour of Qinghai Lake pay for all expenses for TPT’s attendance at the race?
To be frank, yes. They were generous to us and I think we are worth it.
Will there be any changes to sponsors or any impact on the race calendar this year?
Well, I am not fortune teller! There would not be any major changes in our timetable with (the current) sponsor, unless new conditions face the team. We’ve received the official invitations from Tour of China, Tour of Hokkaido, Tour of Brunei and two domestic races (Tour of Kerman and Tour de Milad de noor in Iran) in 2.2 class already. We’re concentrating on the remaining races to gather enough points, because due to the aforementioned problems we lost 6-7 races in which we could take considerable points. We have received special permissions from the UCI to change the main sponsor [Note: in the case of any future changes] and they agreed with us in this area.
Lastly, do you see any possibility of an Iranian ProContinental team in the next 1-2 years?
Why not! To tell the truth. it’s time to see an Iranian Pro continental team. I’m talking on my behalf, from a sports points of view. We have enough points to be a ProContinental team, but we need paper work and a Business Plan to convince the UCI. But before (this happens) we have to be sure enough of our (new) sponsor. Will they back us for next 3-4 seasons? We must come to a common vision before everything else.
CLASSIFICATION LEADERS AFTER STAGE FIVE
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 Alizadeh (Tabriz Petrochemical Team)
STAGE 5 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 5