71 cyclists from 24 nations assembled at the Buddh International FI Circuit near Delhi, India, to participate in the 156.2 kilometer Elite Men’s Road Race at the 2013 Asian Cycling Championships last weekend. Cycling iQ and local freelance writer Praveen Kumar combined resources, secured a media pass and witnessed the race for the coveted White Jersey unfold.
Moments before the race start. We can only imagine what the atmosphere would have been like had these stands been filled with spectators.
Images: Praveen Kumar
Over half the field had registered a ‘DNF’ by the time Uzbekistan’s Muradjan Halmuratov fixed his gaze on the start/finish line for the final time, under the watchful eyes of an audience comprised of emotionless officials. The unsigned Halmuratov, who only three days earlier had also ridden to victory in the Elite Men’s Time Trial, had come up against an impressive group of riders – including many in the fortunate position of being able to leave India result-less, but with pro cycling team contracts behind them – and proven too strong.
While Halmuratov’s win was most probably not anticipated by punters, Iran’s Arvin Moazemi Goudarzi and Kazakhstan’s Andrey Mizurov confirmed the status of their respective countries amongst Asia’s top cycling nations with second and third places, respectively; although, having suffered numerous visa problems, the mood amongst the Iranian camp was still solemn.
“We lost one medal today. After nearly 70kms, we had two riders in the breakaway group but unfortunately one of them punctured. It was a huge loss for us.” lamented Chaichi Raghimi Mostafa, Manager of Iran’s National Team.
Halmuratov, having taken a long-range punt, could leave India with a perfect score; his haul of gold medals even more impressive considering Uzbekistan’s Cycling Federation only formed in 1995 (four years after the dissolution of the USSR) and Sergey Lagutin (Vacansoleil-DCM) is the country’s only current professional road cyclist.
“I knew that I am not a good sprinter. So my only chance was to shed all other riders from the breakaway group and reach the finish line alone” explained an elated Muradjan Halmuratov, moments after being presented with his second gold medal and white jersey. “Also, my two team mates did great by just sitting and not helping the chasing group.”
The 2014 Asian Cycling Championships will be held in Astana, Kazakhstan. Full results from all road cycling disciplines can be downloaded here.
Moving through the F1 circuit’s narrow service lanes. The actual F1 circuit is slightly longer than 5km, but race organizers creatively used service lanes to make one lap of 14.2kms.
On the fourth lap, after nearly 45 kilometers of racing, Amir Mustafa Rusli (Malaysia) and Fatahillah Abdullah (Indonesia) attacked and broke away from the peloton
A chasing group formed to bring back the pair; eventual race winner Muradjan Halmuratov (Uzbekistan) was in this group.
Mehdi Sohrabi of Iran – in 2012, a WorldTour rider with Lotto Belisol – was possibly the biggest star participating in the race. He could manage only a 12th place in the 2013 Asian Cycling Championships Elite Men’s Road Race.
After 70 kilometers, with Halmuratov setting the pace, the breakaway riders were caught. The new consolidated group contained nine riders.
Andrey Mizurov (Kazakhstan) and Muradjan Halmuratov (Uzbekistan) at the front of the breakaway group
Yousif Alhammadi found the pace too hot, dropping out of the lead group, which is two minutes ahead of the peloton and a little over one lap remaining.
Halmuratov wins the race after shedding his breakaway companions.
Gold medal: Muradjan Halmuratov (Uzbekistan); Silver: Arvin Moazemi Goudari (Iran); Bronze: Andrey Mizurov (Kazakhstan). Van Duan Le (Vietnam) and Ying Hon Ronald Yeung (Hong Kong) finished fourth and fifth, respectively
Muradjan Halmuratov (UZB) with Uzbekistan Coach, Markelova Lyudmila Vasilyevna
Praveen with Iran’s Mehdi Sohrabi