In May 2011, Mirsamad Pourseyedi Golakhor was handed a 2 year suspension after testing positive for EPO. Today in Qinghai Province, China, the Tabriz Petrochemical Team rider made a triumphant return to the peloton, following the type of gruelling breakaway Iranian riders are famous for. But, in a new era where every achievement is subjected to higher scrutiny, the lingering questions will remain.*
IMAGES: Mokhriz Aziz (UCI AsiaTour photographer) + 2013 Tour of Qinghai Lake
Less than 24 hours after being chilled to the core in yesterday’s second stage, fine weather this morning permitted riders to don summer attire for today’s 148km stage. Beginning at 2’500m above sea level, the peloton made swift progress over rolling terrain to the day’s first intermediate sprint at 22.09km, arriving a mere 27 minutes after the official race start. Once there, Atlas – Personal Jakroo’s Giorgio Brambilla and Mathieu Chiocca crowded out Ukraine’s Yuriy Metlushenko (Torku Sekerspor) to take first and second, respectively. Using the sprint as a launching platform for their own longer-term objectives, four riders – Mirsamad Pourseyedi Golakhor and Amir Kolahdoz Hagh (both Tabriz Petrochemical Team), Alexandr Shushemoin (Continental Team Astana) and Nicolas Baldo (Atlas – Personal Jakroo) – knuckled-down towards the Hors Categorie ascent ahead. At the start of the KOM proper (38.83km), the quartet had opened a 2’40″ lead.
It took only a handful of time on the 15km-long climb for the two TPT riders to unseat the first of their companions (Shushemoin) and to begin banking minutes on the main field as they worked diligently towards the 3’757m KOM (at 54.88km). Baldo bravely held on, before losing contact 5km from the summit. Kolahdoz Hagh and Pourseyedi Golakhor crested the peak with more than six minutes advantage over the main field – which had split into three distinct groups – whilst Baldo valiantly tried to urge himself back up to the pair. Like yesterday, temperatures had dipped below 5°C and fog once again lingered.
The Iranian duo rode stubbornly through severe crosswinds – also a familiar presence in their home training base of Tabriz – whilst, behind them, a group of 12 riders had shunned the peloton and were cutting down on the lead. Rain started to fall as Pourseyedi Golakhor led through the final intermediate sprint (101.19km) and the gap, which had bottomed out at three minutes, started growing again, reaching 3’45″ with only 25km remaining. Seeking a bunch sprint for their man Daniil Fominykh, Continental Team Astana (AS2) took a renewed interest in the chase, shearing one minute over the next ten kilometres.
Fortuitously for the two leaders, the Kazakh team could not drum up sufficient support and disorganisation stifled the chase group’s progress in the final, crucial, ten kilometres. Though their lead had slumped to 1’35″ by the 5km marker, Kolahdoz Hagh and Pourseyedi Golakhor were all but assured of victory. In the end, it was the latter who was gifted the stage win by his teammate, heralding a return from disgrace and, hopefully, the beginning of a new chapter in his athletic career. With the standard of anti-doping protocols across the UCI AsiaTour unclear, the benefit of doubt remains a fragile assurance.
*Footnote: the original intro to this header read “the lingering question remains ‘how can we be sure this was a clean win?’.” After further consideration, and in the spirit of equitable treatment to all riders who are eligible to race, I’ve deemed this language – my own words – too accusatory.
Stage 4, Qinghai Lake – Tianjun (227km) starts 10:00 local time (02:00 GMT), Wednesday, 10 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): Mirsamad Pourseyedi Golakhor (Tabriz Petrochemical Team)
Points Classification (Green jersey): Luis Guillermo Mas Bonet (Burgos BH – Castilla y León)
Best Asian Rider Classification (Blue jersey): Mirsamad Pourseyedi Golakhor (Tabriz Petrochemical Team)
King of the Mountains Classification (Polka Dot jersey): Hossein Alizadeh (Amore & Vita)
Teams General Classification: Tabriz Petrochemical Team
FULL RESULTS SHEET (PDF) HERE
STAGE 3 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE THREE