Several high-profile fast men have spent the better part of the last week flopping hopelessly about in an oxygen-starved state, as the high altitudes of Tour of Qinghai Lake have exacted their toll. Fortunately, the Parcours God took pity and tossed the big fish back into the water.
To those altitude-allergic men, today s 200 kilometre stage had one redeeming feature; and it wasn t the Hors Categorie climb that cruelly hauled them back to 4,000 metres above sea level over the first third of the course. Mercifully, this would be the last time they would approach anything above 2,200 metres for the remainder of the race. Even better, they would reap the immediate benefits of a near-2,500 metre drop in altitude over the next 120 kilometres.
Race leader Hossein Alizadeh (Tabriz Petrochemical Team) remained vigilant all day, cresting the first and second KOM climbs in the front group, though Rusvelo s Sergey Firsanov stole five points on Alizadeh in the KOM classification to move within easy striking range of the polka-dot jersey. With only two category three climbs remaining in the race only Firsanov would have a chance to overhaul the Iranian, who is in super form.
Two major factors quashed the likelihood of a breakaway; a high average speed of 45.5kph and the -2% gradient of the course which bridged the final KOM summit to the finish line in Zhangye. The balance was now tipped heavily in favour of sprinters; the big guns had well over half the race to rest their legs for the final run to the finish. Four and a half hours after departing Qilian, the peloton arrived into Zhangye and three former European junior track champions Artur Ershov and Ivan Kovalev from Rusvelo, and Farnese Vini Selle Italia s Andrea Guardini lunged for the major podium spots.
Click on image to jump to the stage 8 highlights video at QQride.com
Check out the stage eight video highlights on QQride.com and more of Mike s images at the Official Tour of Qinghai Lake photo gallery.
CLASSIFICATION LEADERS AFTER STAGE EIGHT Leaders (Yellow) Jersey (??): Hossein Alizadeh (Tabriz Petrochemical Team) Points (Green) Jersey (??): Luka Mezgec (SAVA) King of the Mountains Jersey (???): Hossein Alizadeh (Tabriz Petrochemical Team)
Best Asian Rider (Blue) Jersey (??): Hossein Alizadeh (Tabriz Petrochemical Team)
STAGE 8 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 8