The Trials of Tabriz
By Steve Thomas/www.bikenewsasia.com
The far-flung northern mountains of Iran are certainly providing a test for Team Champion System, and the other riders, in this year’s Tour of Azarbaijan. Following on from the opening prologue time trial and a windswept hilly road stage the riders set out two days ago for the third day’s (second full stage) of racing, a 38-km team time trial stage.
The stage had originally been slated as 50-km in distance, but the organisers managed to cram it all into a shorter test, with a whole lot more climbing involved too! With many riders still suffering from after effects of the previous day’s wind blasted road stage a short blast may seem like a virtual rest day, but when you have teams like fearsome Tabriz Petrochemical and the powerful challengers of Miche gunning for the overall glory the time cuts just to stay in the race mean that everybody has to race hard, very hard.
On the day the Iranian TPT team outclassed the star studded Italian heavy Miche team by a staggering 44 seconds, and the home squad placed their riders in the first three places overall on GC, with Mehdi Sohrabi taking the yellow leaders jersey ahead of team mate and defending race champion Ghader Mizbani.
With the time of the 4th rider in the team being the counting marker, and deciding if a team remains in the race, CS had to finish a full roster in the TTT to avoid elimination (a fate which befell another team), and they did so by taking 13th spot.
Yesterday’s road stage looked to be ultra-hilly from the pre race info and profile maps, but turned out to be a little easier than feared. An early crash and some hard racing fractured the peloton, but there was no major change in the overall race dynamic. CS rider Holger Burkhardt was one of 12 riders left behind after the early crash – which occurred just 5-km into the race, and they never saw the action again.
In the closing stages CS’s main GC contender Joris Bollat hit a rock while climbing, and fell heavily, resulting in a nasty knee slash. Simon Chau waited for him, but this was also time for the front-end shake up, and they missed the cut for the lead group.
Two more mountainous stages lie ahead, and we’ll catch up again once the final cards are dealt.
Stage 3 (day 4)
1. Markus Eichler (Nsp, Ger), 2:49:48
2. Mohammed Taef Amir (Ardabil, Iri)
3. Giuseppe di Salveo (Miche, Ita)
23. Wu Kin San (CS, Hkg) all same time
65. Simon Chau at 2:18
71. Joris Bollat at 2:18
93. Holger Burkhardt at 16:56
Overall Mehdi Sohrabi leads from Ghader Mizbani and Hossein Askari, all are TPT riders.