If victory in Xining last Sunday didn’t sufficiently inform his rivals, Sacha Modolo again demonstrated he is the man to beat should a bunch sprint materialise. Having earlier clinched the first intermediate sprint of today’s Tour of Qinghai Lake fourth stage – the race’s longest – the Italian repeated on arrival into Tianjun County, bringing his career stage-win haul at Qinghai Lake to four.
IMAGES: Mokhriz Aziz (UCI AsiaTour photographer) + Tour of Qinghai Lake 2013
Strong crosswinds hampered early attacks in the opening kilometres of today’s 227km stage, though the reduced oxygen at 3’300m elevation surely didn’t help either. Modolo led the peloton into the first intermediate sprint (at 19.98km) ahead of Points Jersey-wearer Luis Mas Bonet (Burgos BH – Castilla y León) and Giorgio Brambilla (Atlas Personal – Jakroo). The bunch remained remarkably placid for several more kilometres, before Liu Biao (Champion System Pro Cycling Team) jumped up the road.
Tucked deep into his Oval bars Liu, a former Chinese ITT National Champion, drove onwards despite the monumental task of staying away; with two hors catégorie climbs and 180km remaining, only a huge engine, coupled with more than a reasonable amount of luck, would sustain his solo escapade. The 3’20″ lead Liu had built started to unravel at the foothills of the first climb (at 75km); dropping by 10 seconds, then 20″, then another 50″ over the initial 20 minutes of ascent. With the omnipresent threat of an Iranian armada behind, the gutsy rider lifted his effort to crest the summit ahead of race leader Mirsamad Pourseyedi Golakhor (Tabriz Petrochemical Team), Alizadeh (Amore & Vita), Vahid Ghaffari, Rahim Emami and Amir Zargari (all RTS Racing Team). With his second place in the first KOM, the Yellow Jersey, also wearing the White Jersey of Best Asian Rider now also had the Polka Dot Jersey in his pocket.
The lead riders continued their odyssey to the next intermediate sprint (147.43km) whilst the 700 meter elevation loss to that milestone assisted the field to rejoin in the first third of the 60 kilometre descent. No antics transpired as the peloton passed through the feedzone, but the pace was turned up to 60kph shortly after refuelling. Come the second sprint, it was still Bardiani Valvole – CSF Inox in front, but this time Filippo Fortin, beating Brambilla and David De La Fuente (Torku Sekerspor). Pourseyedi Golakhor’s Tabriz Petrochemical Team wasted no time in resuming its position at the head of the field whilst, behind, riders were able to dispose of their arm warmers in the fine 20°C conditions.
With Tabriz controlling the field and at 15’51″ down on GC, Tim Mikelj (Sava) sensed an opportunity to test the generosity of his peers, accelerating away with 40 kilometres, and a moderate hors catégorie climb, remaining. Behind him, Liu (CSS) & 2013 Asian Cycling Champion (RR & ITT) Muradjan Halmuratov (RTS Racing Team) took up chase. The pair bridged to Mikelj at the start of the final KOM; a 340m vertical ascent over 3.18km, which itself curled like a shark fin atop the more-substantial ascent they were already on. The trio would not reach the summit alone though, as Yevgeniy Nepomnyachshiy (Continental Team Astana), Emami (RTS) and Antoine Lavieu (La Pomme Marseille) breezed past with the peloton in tow.
As the final 20 kilometres trended down, it was all upside for the sprinter’s teams with the peloton holding fast all the way into Tianjun. Lampre-Merida, the sole ProTeam at this year’s race, and racing in an important market of major sponsor Merida, hoped new recruit Max Richeze (formerly Team Nippo) could take the team’s first UCI stage win in China, but Modolo put those hopes on ice with a clear bike length’s victory over the Argentinean, whilst Ralf Matzka (Team NetApp-Endura) took third.
Stage 5, Tianjun – Xihaizhen (203km) starts 10:00 local time (02:00 GMT), Thursday, 11 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): Mirsamad Pourseyedi Golakhor (Tabriz Petrochemical Team)
Teams General Classification: Tabriz Petrochemical Team
FULL RESULTS SHEET (PDF) HERE
STAGE 4 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FOUR