Breaking free from a five-man break that refused to yield to the urgency of a closing peloton, an animated David De La Fuente (Torku Sekerspor) secured his first Tour of Qinghai Lake stage win and added to a palmarès that has been sans victory since 2009. The 32-year old Spaniard had also done enough to topple Sacha Modolo from the GC lead.
Today’s 151-kilometre stage began in the eastern prefecture of Haidong (Qinghai province) amidst a contrast of overcast skies above and a throng of colourfully-dressed spectators to the side. 93 kilometres to the southeast, a 3’786m Hors Category summit awaited.
Cool temperatures and a tailwind assisted the 150-strong peloton to a 50kph average speed on its 30km downward journey to the stage’s lowest point (2’200m), though this still didn’t prevent a six-man break – consisting of Mehdi Sohrabi (Tabriz Petrochemical Team), Volodymyr Starchyk (Amore & Vita), Yoann Paillot (La Pomme Marseille), Max Walsleben (Nutrixxion Abus), Luis Guillermo Mas Bonet (Burgos BH – Castilla y León), and Wu Pei Lun (Qinghai Tianyoude Cycling Team) – from gaining almost nine minutes.
In the first intermediate sprint of the day (at 34.13km) Wu clinched maximum points ahead of Sohrabi and Starchyk, with the break continuing to hold its advantage for an additional 35km where Mas Bonet, with an acceleration which caused Walsleben to lose contact, liberated himself from the group to win the stage’s second and final intermediate sprint on the lower slopes of the day’s sole categorized climb.
As the quintet continued its ascent, Chief Commissaire Alexander Donike searched the leaden sky and, anticipating the consequences of an abbreviated or cancelled stage, called ahead for a weather report on the summit.
Some way back from the Commissaire’s black Skoda saloon, Chen Zhi An (Gan Su Sports Lottery Cycling Team) bravely attempted to bridge the five minute gap to the lead group, gaining 1’40” before being reabsorbed. Ahead, the altitude toyed with Sohrabi and Pailliot, and the duo began an unrecoverable slide backwards. At the same time, Sohrabi’s teammate Hossein Askari had shot out of the main field and was in his element, rapidly closing on the remaining three leaders with Amir Kolahdozhagh (TPT) and Rahim Ememi (RTS Racing Team) for company; the former teammates from Iran made contact with less than 300 vertical meters to the summit remaining.
Also closing in was 2012 Tour of Qinghai Lake overall winner, Hossein Alizadeh (Amore & Vita) who, ominously for the lead group, was also winner of that edition’s KOM classification. Alizadeh latched on to the break and sailed onwards to secure yet another Santic-branded KOM jersey.
With visibility reduced to just twenty metres for one kilometre either side of the summit, riders were advised to proceed with caution on the many hairpins of the descent to the Yellow River. Domestiques fell back to team cars to fetch raincoats and vests as protection against the single-digit temperatures that threatened to chill their muscles on the wet 50km descent to the finish. Up ahead, the break had sat up and would soon be swallowed by the peloton.
After four win-less seasons, De La Fuente’s opportunity came when he joined Massimo Graziato (Lampre-Merida), Gregor Gazvoda (Champion System Pro Cycling Team), Daniil Fominykh (Continental Team Astana) and Thomas Vaubourzeix (La Pomme Marseille) in a split that quickly built a lead of 40” with only 25 kilometres remaining. Liberating himself from the peloton, David Belda Garcia (Burgos BH – Castilla y León) also plowed ahead; catching the lead group of five, resting briefly, then attacking with five kilometers remaining; only to be unceremoniously caught and passed by the same group.
In the final kilometer, it was an overjoyed De La Fuente who had the most reserves; clinching a two-bike-length victory over Graziato, with Vaubourzeix completing the podium a further two bike lengths back.
Stage 3, Guide – Qinghai Lake (148km) starts 10:00 local time (02:00 GMT), Tuesday, 09 July 2013. All stage maps and profiles, together with a full race backgrounder can be found on the Cycling iQ 2013 Tour of Qinghai Lake race preview page.
Individual General Classification (Yellow jersey): David De La Fuente (Torku Sekerspor)
Points Classification (Green jersey): Luis Guillermo Mas Bonet (Burgos BH – Castilla y León)
Best Asian Rider Classification (Blue jersey): Daniil Fominykh (Continental Team Astana)
King of the Mountains Classification (Polka Dot jersey): Hossein Alizadeh (Amore & Vita)
Teams General Classification: La Pomme Marseille
FULL RESULTS SHEET (PDF) HERE
STAGE 2 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE TWO