Under normal circumstances, individuals engaged in sporting activities above 4’000 metres are usually tethered to a safety apparatus of some sort. At 4’120 metres though – about the altitude a flight attendant offers passengers a hot towel – the only thing Tour of Qinghai Lake riders were clutching onto were a pair of handlebars; aluminium for those still apprehensive about carbon fiber’s safety. Robert Förster (United Healthcare Pro Cycling) was first to descend from the great heights.
IMAGES: Mokhriz Aziz (UCI AsiaTour photographer) + Tour of Qinghai Lake 2013
Reassuringly, with 205 kilometres ahead of the peloton, today’s forecasted weather was a significant upgrade from yesterday’s dousing. Clipping in at 3’125m elevation, the 135-strong group pushed off with relative serenity, in keeping with the fine conditions. Twenty kilometres ticked by before Matt Brammeier (Champion System Pro Cycling Team), Nazim Bakirci (Torku Sekerspor) and Artem Topchyanuk (Amore & Vita) made the day’s first break. The trio covered 41 kilometres in the first hour of racing, with Brammeier securing the first intermediate sprint (46.42km) ahead of Bakirchi and Topchyanuk; the latter could only hang on for a further nine kilometres before losing contact. A good rhythm established, the pair quickly built a 3’30” lead.
With the stage’s first hors catègorie climb fast approaching (3’869m, 107.06km) Yellow Jersey Mirsamad Pourseyedi Golakhour (Tabriz Petrochemical Team) sent his helpers to the front of the main field, quickly reducing the gap as the lead duo rode through the second intermediate sprint (80.97km) with no change to the first’s pecking order. A little over 2’30” later, Hossein Alizadeh (Amore & Vita) followed through in third place, with the main field on his wheel. Bakirci reversed roles with CSS’s Brammeier by taking maximum KOM points at 107 kms, but this would be the end of their day’s highlights as the peloton made contact again on the descent.
80 kilometres of racing still remained when former Mexican National ITT Champion Uri Martins (Amore & Vita) decided the 38kph average speed wasn’t to his liking. At only 1’05” in arrears to Pourseyedi Golakhour on GC, Martins’ move certainly bordered on audacious. His lead would exceed two minutes – thus making him virtual leader on the road – before TPT once again took up chase. It was a reflection of the effort required to begin pulling Martins back that the peloton split in two, with the rearward group dropping over four minutes with 50km of roads still to traverse.
Ten kllometres out from the final KOM (4’120m, 172.91km) – a monster in terms of altitude, though relatively modest in terms of vertical ascent – Martin was in view of the peloton as he urged himself forward into the staunch headwind. On the ascent, Martins finally had to concede defeat, and Sergiy Grechyn (Torku Sekerspor) was quick to fill the remaining void. Grechyn – a regular on the UCIAsiaTour, with multiple appearances at Tour of Taihu Lake, China – took towards the summit with all the conviction of a man who had won overall at Tour de Azerbaijan two months prior. It was short lived, however, as Pourseyedi Golakhor, Alizadeh, Vahid Ghaffari (RTS Racing Team) and Ghader Mizbani (TPT) floated by, and over, the summit with the lead group of approximately 40 riders.
The descenders were sorted from the pretenders as the descent plummeted from 4’120m to 2’737m in the final 20 kilometres, with a group of 25 splintering off. A minute down with available road evaporating, Förster grimaced his way back into contention inside the last handful of kilometres, finding solace behind teammate Jonathan Clarke, who then dutifully covered any attempted breaks. Finishing a clear bike length ahead of Grechyn (TRK) and Lampre-Merida’s Massimo Graziato, Förster’s efforts were rewarded.
Tomorrow’s seventh stage, an 82 kilometre circuit race with a difference in Qilian, starts at 10:00 local time and can be viewed live on Qinghai Satellite TV HERE
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 6 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE SIX