Luka Mezgec bagged his fourth win of this year s Tour of Qinghai Lake today, cementing his status as the race s most consistent sprinter. With two stages remaining, the Slovenian has every chance to match, or even better, Australian Alan Davis five stage haul in 2007.
Following a 23 kilometre journey from Shapotou Park a theme park with a difference the peloton entered the 12.1km circuit which they would complete seven times before the opportunity for stage glory would arise. After his consecutive wins in the two preceding stages, Farnese Vini Selle Italia s Andrea Guardini looked like the man to beat.
Sure enough, the fluro-yellow kits of Guardini s Farnese Vini team were out in force at the head of the field. The UK-registered squad, which is Italian in every other sense, was joined by Tabriz Petrochemical Team, seeking to control moves by Hossein Alizadeh s general classification rivals. Precious bonus seconds were also on offer in the three intermediate sprints, requiring extreme vigilance from Tabriz.
An average speed approaching 48kph blunted any chance of a sustained breakaway, but there were still opportunities for riders who were not in GC contention. Alexandr Shushemoin (Astana Continental Team) was the most aggressive pursuant of the time bonuses, grabbing first, second and third (respectively) in the intermediate sprints to move into 20th position on the general classification.
By the time a bristling peloton hurtled towards the finish line, Shushemoin s success in ascending further up the ranks proved to be the exception within the top twenty individuals on GC. However, though Mezgec s 10? time bonus for the stage win did not change his eight overall placing, it pulled him even closer to overtaking 7th-placed Andrey Mizurov (Amore & Vita), who is 11? ahead on GC.
At 220 kilometres, Wednesday s stage is the race s longest. Featuring one category three climb and two intermediate sprints, it could be the perfect time for Rusvelo s Sergey Firsanov to strike a deal with Alizadeh to ease into the KOM jersey of far greater importance to Alizadeh is the retention of his tenuously-held yellow jersey but it s every bit as likely Tabriz, and Alizadeh, will yield nothing.
Check out more of Mike s images at the Official Tour of Qinghai Lake photo gallery.
CLASSIFICATION LEADERS AFTER STAGE 11 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 11 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 11