By Steve Thomas/www.bikenewsasia.com
Friday the 13th is a day feared by many of us, as well as the title to a whole series of horror movies. Yet, in Chinese culture the number 13 is considered to be lucky, so when you have a bike race in an Arab country and a team made up of European and Hong Kong riders things can get a little confusing; to wear the lucky socks or not?
Well, it just about worked out for Team Champion System when their full quota of team bikes arrived just in the nick of time for the opening prologue stage of this year’s Tour of Azerbaijan in Iran, the latest race on the UCI Asia Tour.
A few frayed fingernails and last minute preparations had all in order for the teams four riders to make their allotted start times for the opening 3.6-km (not 4-km as stated) race against the clock around Tabriz.
An exceptionally strong pre-race team listing played heavy on the minds of many riders, with an ultra mountainous week ahead. But the actual start list turned out to be even more intimidating; alongside Stefan Schumacher on the Miche team roster was Davide Rebellin, another rider returning to competition following a sanction for doping, and a rider who has won many of the biggest bike races around. Also joining the NSP line up was their former team-mate from Gerolsteiner Markus Fothen, while Colombian climbing ace Libardo Nino brought along his younger brother Miguel, who will combine with him to make a formidable climbing duo for the Le Tua team.
On the day it was Shumacher who rolled out fastest with a time of 4.55, ten seconds ahead of the younger Nino. Champion System rider Joris Bollat was the team’s best finisher with a time of 5.16, which earned him 39th spot. Roger Beuchat took 47th, Simon Chau 8oth and Wu Kin san 82nd. There were 101 starters in the race.
The real test begins today, and there’s little let up in the climbing for the rest of the race.
Pics from the organiser