Ignorance is bliss, or so the saying goes. As four early attackers in today’s 203km fifth stage pushed ahead of the peloton in 55kph headwinds, little did they know that, behind them, an innocent natural break had descended into farce for the rest of the field. The by-product? An unlikely winner in the form of Atlas Personal – Jakroo’s Oleksander Polivoda.
IMAGES: Mokhriz Aziz (UCI AsiaTour photographer) + Tour of Qinghai Lake 2013
Rider discontent was palpable from the start. Rain, wind, cold, distance; neither element too bad in isolation, but not the most enjoyable when combined. Of course, apart from appropriate clothing, one way to sustain warmth is to keep moving – which is exactly what Floris Goesinnen (Drapac Cycling), Chang Wei Kei (RTS Racing Team), Tilegen Madios (Continental Team Astana), and Oleksander Polivoda (Atlas Personal – Jakroo) did with the stage only one kilometre young. Though the parcours trended down for the first 80 kilometres – from an initial elevation of 3’399m to 3’240m – a severe headwind and scant protection from the elements kept the break’s progress to well below 40kph. However, the peloton was generating even less forward momentum, and the lead four had pocketed a lead of 4’40” at the close of the first hour. Polivoda went first through the day’s initial intermediate sprint at 55.99km, followed by Madios, then Goesinnen.
Several minutes later the peloton – looking very much as if it had been teleported straight from an early-Spring Belgian kermesse – rode through the same point. Anyone who has ever ridden a bike in cold, wet, weather understands the havoc such conditions can have on the bladder, and this was certainly on the minds of 134 miserably-soaked riders with several hours of racing still ahead; if the same conditions were also preying on Polivoda and his companions, it certainly wasn’t showing in their performance. From somewhere inside the peloton [CiQ: until now, it is not exactly clear where it began] the simple urge to pee morphed into a demand for a meeting with Chief Commissaire Alexander Donike. Frustrated by the weather they were currently racing in, riders – or a rider, or a team, depending on whose version of events will ultimately stick – pushed for the stage’s neutralisation. Referencing past Milan-San Remos and other recent ‘European classics’ that hadn’t been cancelled in similar or worse circumstances, Donike, who was also aware of more favourable meteorological conditions ahead, requested that riders, after several minutes of lobbying, get back on their bikes. The 5’30” gap to the leading four had now ballooned to 14 minutes.
Legs heavy from standing around in the rain – though some riders not actively involved in the discussions with Donike had smartly taken the opportunity to change into dry clothing – the peloton wound its merry way along, slowly picking up the pieces of time it had dropped. Ahead, at 88.26km, Polivoda once again lead Drapac’s Dutch sprinter through another intermediate sprint, with Madios and Chang taking third and fourth for a second time. At the stage’s midpoint, the gap was still 11’35”.
With none of the riders ahead a threat to GC – Madios began the day in 53rd position, 15’28” down on race leader Mirasamad Pourseyedi Golakhor (Tabriz Petrochemical Team) – the bunch took a relaxed approach to regaining contact, with cooperation between the teams relatively smooth. Chang, however, was neither relaxed nor able to cooperate any longer; dropping like a stone out of the lead group and back into the peloton, which was slowly drying out thanks to the rain’s disappearance. Forty-five minutes later, Madios was also ejected, leaving the Swiss-contracted Ukrainian and the Australian-contracted Dutchman to push on in two-up TT mode. Sniffing blood, Tabriz Petrochemical Team gathered at the head of the peloton and the gap plummeted to 1’30” as the leading pair crested the day’s only categorized climb; a Category 3 roller with 100m vertical gain. The bunch had now split and Liu Biao (Champion System Pro Cycling Team), ever the aggressor in this race, soloed away towards a hopeful connection with the leaders. Ultimately, Liu could only manage to sweep up the remaining KOM point that remained before being reabsorbed.
On the descent to the finish, and with less than 20 kilometres remaining, Goesinnen and Polivoda had now led the race for more than four hours. The staunch headwinds had dissipated, but the two-minute gap back to the peloton could still be taken away at any moment. Luckily for the duo, an accord about what to do couldn’t be reached amongst the teams. Sacha Modolo’s Bardiani Valvole – CSF Inox squad found itself alone in the chase. As the available kilometers faded, the gap stubbornly held above two minutes. Marginal gains were made but, with a superhuman effort required to bridge inside the final five kilometers, the stage win was no longer Modolo’s to take.
Goesinnen, the more experienced rider on the road, looked every bit the winner in the closing metres until Polivoda, a former world-class junior track cyclist, drew alongside Drapac’s burly sprinter to win by a tire-width. Modolo validated his team’s persistence 40” later, taking third and moving into the green points leaders jersey. Pourseyedi Golakhor meanwhile kept his trio of Yellow, White and Polka Dot jerseys for another day.
Stage 6 from Xihaizhen – Qilian (205km) starts 10:00 local time (02:00 GMT), Friday, 12 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): Sacha Modolo (Bardiani Valvole – CSF Inox)
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 5 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FIVE