With appearances in Tour of Qinghai Lake, Tour of Hainan and Tour of Taihu ticked off in the second-half of his 2012 season, Benjamin Giraud was in China a lot last year; the 27-year old Frenchman graced the podium seven times, but always with another rider standing taller beside him. Today, he finally made the extra step up.
IMAGES: Mokhriz Aziz (UCI AsiaTour photographer) + Tour of Qinghai Lake 2013
Giraud’s (La Pomme – Marseille) maiden victory in China came at the expense of his breakaway companions – Scott Thwaites (Team Netapp-Endura) and Uri Martins (Amore & Vita) – from achieving the same feat. Perhaps one consolation was the fact they stayed away at all.
The peloton remained in formation, give or take a few attacks which didn’t stick, until Jonathan Clarke (United Healthcare Pro Cycling), Marco Coledan (Bardiani Valvole – CSF Inox), Matt Brammeier (Champion System Pro Cycling), Yoann Paillot (La Pomme Marseille) and Floris Goesinnen (Drapac Cycling) broke away a few minutes prior to the day’s first intermediate sprint (at 31.25km), which Paillot won. As the first hour of racing drew to a close, all five riders were swept up again.
A brief moment of calm ensued before Thwaites made his move, quickly gaining 15” on the bunch as the parcours continued its general trend upwards towards the race’s final KOM – a 2’173m Category 3 at 134km. Martins and Giraud joined Thwaites several kilometres later to form a cohesive trio. Champion System’s Jiao Pengda and Max Walsleben (Nutrixxion Abus) made chase, impressively bridging to the lead three riders even as they extended the gap back to the main field by over two and a half minutes.
Two hours into the 190km stage, the break’s lead was being pegged back. Unable to sustain an equitable role in the break, Jiao fell away, and the gap began opening again. Giraud’s group had over three minutes on the peloton at the second intermediate sprint (at 108.52km), which the Frenchman won ahead of Thwaites and Martins. Already at 2’000 metres by this point, the bulk of the approach to the KOM was already behind them – this time it was Martins who took maximum points.
A fast descent must have instilled confidence within the peloton that the break could readily be summoned within the time remaining, but a tack to the South brought with it an abrupt change in conditions, with robust crosswinds foiling any perception of an easy catch. Lampre-Merida headed up the first of several echelons which formed to dampen the impact, but the breakaway remained stubbornly distal; with almost two minutes advantage as it passed inside 10km to go.
Still with more than one minute to play with as the finish came into view, Giraud could be forgiven for having a degree of confidence in his chances given he was up against the same rivals that he beat in the intermediate sprint earlier. Ultimately, it was anything but straightforward, with Giraud only narrowly beating Thwaites, who was leaving nothing to chance. Points Jersey wearer Sacha Modolo, searching for a record-equaling five stage wins in this year’s race (Allan Davis and Luka Mezgec have both won five stages apiece, in 2007 and 2012 respectively) easily led the main field home.
Stage 11, in Yinchuan County (123km), starts 10:00 local time (02:00 GMT), Thursday, 18 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 10 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE TEN