The tour of qinghai lake came to a reasonably successful end for us champion system boys this week. Starting the final stage in 3rd place, we had a very simple objective, to pinch some bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints to move at the very least into 2nd. Fortunately for me my team mates believed in me more than i believed in myself and after missing all the points in the first sprint finishing 4th despite a perfect lead out by my boys, I asked them not to work for me for the second and final intermediate of the 2012 tour as I has no confidence in my ability to take the seconds required to move up and was afraid my rivals might pinch time and move ahead of me.
Thankfully my team mates told me to grow some testicles and have a go. They immediately went to work controlling the race for the next 30km before the sprint and with 3pm to go I again found myself behind my dedicated team mates drumming out a tempo that made it difficult for me to even hold the wheel. One by on the Chinese boys rode themselves inside out before my final man, will Clarke was the only one left in front of me with 1km to go before the most important intermediate sprint of my professional career. All the time our Rd captain aaron kemps and jian kun (nicknamed johy Quinn for the race) on my wheel protecting me from my rivals falling into my slipstream and I certainly heard plenty of foul language in both English and Spanish and Iranian coming from behind which gave me confidence, these guys were certainly ruffling the feathers of those chasing exactly what were chasing!!! So back to the final km and will took a quick look back at me and with my new found confidence I told him to let rip. Let rip he did cranking the pace up to almost 70kmph and in the process splitting 2 of us of the front of the peleton, myself and another rider along for the ride out of gc who just piped me in a photo finish for 1st however it was not a problem as the 2 seconds for 2nd place gave me enough to move into 2nd on gc. So 2 got me to 2!!! Back to will whom had pulled me to with 400m of the line had gone that had that when he finished his lead out he immediately went backwards through the peleton and was struggling to maintain contact within the safety of the follows cars by the time I crossed the intermediate sprint line. This really typified team work for me, he had dug so deep he did not have another gram of effort left in his body following his amazing effort to literally turn the race around for us with his lead out. I certainly owe him one big amount of help in an upcoming race in the future.
No heroics were performed in the final dash for the stage victory however it was widely spoken within the bunch that m champion system legendary team mates had done a faster lead out for the sprints than any of the sprinters teams could manage for the actual sprint!!! With my boys all in suffer street like will fighting just to make it the final 15km to the finish, replicating the lead out was not in the question and not to mention my inability to sprint against any riders with just the slightest sprint on them.
Alas we were simply happy to have achieved exactly what we set out to do at the start of the day and achieve a great result for not only champion systems, but for the team work involved in obtaining the result. Everybody completely sacrificed themselves for me these 2 weeks and as a result we grew as a team together. We all had specific areas we could contribute and every rider took responsibility in those circumstances to perform there role and did not miss a beat the whole race. As a result of this collective contribution I was able to maintain a good gc position that we could all be excited to be apart off.
As for the race itself it was quite an amazing adventure. The longest stage race ever held in Asia and hens earning the nickname of Asia's grand tour. 13 days, 2000km without any time trials!! average elevation of 3100m, and an average race speed of 45kmph made it a real great event to be apart of. Having to face the environmental factors is hard enough at in excess of 3000m altitude however to attempt to contain the Iranians and columbians whom had all grown up living such environments took the torture to a whole new level. In any case we all survived and had the privilege of being apart of such a unique race which seeing the level of organization and determination of the local people to make it bigger and better in the future, many many professional cyclists will have the opportunity to experience it all in the years to come