Daily Diary: Jason Christie talks Tour of Qinghai Lake – Stage 6

By Aaron S Lee

The Tour of Qinghai reaches its highest summit at 4,120 metres above sea level, and reigning New Zealand road race champion Jason Christie tells NZ Bike all about it.

QILIAN, China— Ukrainian-registered UCI Continental team Kolss-BDC is starting to make it look easy over the first week of racing at the 15th ‘Qinghai Rural Credit Cup’ Tour of Qinghai Lake (UCI 2.HC). The team has four riders in the top 6 on general classification (GC), including race and points leader Vitality Buts (UKR).

Two days after the Kolss finished first and third on the namesake stage, team rider Sergiy Lagkuti overcame two monstrous climbs to claim stage 6 in Qilian, China, on Friday, July 22.

The 207km day started quickly in Xihaizhen heading toward the first of two climbs, a category 1 (3,860m in elevation) at the 100km mark, which is where the race broke open with a sustained break that rode all the way to the finish. A total of 38 riders crossed the line within 22 seconds of one another, while the remaining 84 staggered in over the next half hour.

Stage 4 winner and current GC gave praise to his fellow countryman and teammate.

“It was a hard day today,” said Buts. “But, Sergiy had a really strong day today, and we got he result that we wanted.”

As far as the what the future holds for Buts and Lagkuti, who is currently on the same time as the yellow jersey with two-time stage winner Yevgeniy Gidich (Vino 4ever SKO) just one second back in third, Buts is confident Kolss can hang on to the general classification until the finish of the 13-stage, 1,916km UCI Asia Tour road race commonly referred to as to as the unofficial “fourth grand tour.”

“The ultimate goal is to keep the yellow jersey,” admitted the 29-year-old Buts. “I feel we are ready for it.”

A crash inside the first 2km brought down several riders, including Mustafa Sayar (Torku-SekerSpor), who was forced to abandon the stage leaving Torku with just two riders for the remainder of the race after four team riders, including Turkish Olympian Ahmet Örken, withdrew prior to stage 5 due to extreme altitude sickness.

Sayar tangled with Nippo-Vini Fantini’s Gianfranco Zilioli, who suffered a broken collarbone and is out of the race. Zilioli’s teammate Nicolas Marini (ITA) also went down and explained the crash to NZ Bike.

“I really don’t know why we crashed,” explained the 22-year-old sprint specialist. “We were not tired … we were on the flat at the beginning of the stage inside 2km. It seemed like 20 or 30 riders went down – including myself – but I’m okay and just happy to finish and get the mountains behind us.”

For reigning New Zealand road race champion Jason Christie (Kenyan Riders Downunder), it was the fourth straight leg smasher, and the 25-year-old Christchurch native shared his thoughts on stage 6 exclusively with NZ Bike.

Christie’s diary entry: Stage 6 – Xihaizhen to Qilian, 207km
Well, that was eventful.
There’s nothing like a fairly decent pileup in the first 5km of a 207km stage race to rattle some dags. I really hope no one was seriously injured.

I managed to come off lightly and had a fairly solid chase with many others to make it back to a hauling peloton. The stage today was really hilly.

We started at above 3,000m and it only went up and up. We hit the highest point of the stage and of the entire race today at 4,120m above sea level. Luckily enough the tables had turned for us compared to the day prior with some OK weather greeting us.

The climbs are really hard when at altitude. I normally wouldn't find them so bad if they were sea level, but when you're climbing to basically the same altitude as Mount Everest base camp, it becomes rather difficult.

The last descent of the day was awesome with so many switchbacks, and on not too bad of a road. I really enjoyed it. Nothing back in New Zealand compares to that today – well, at least that I can think of
I managed to enjoy the second to last proper altitude day of this race by chatting away with Italian sprinter Nicolas Marini of Nippo-Vini Fantini. I thought I'd mention him as he said he likes to read this ‘Daily Diary’ I've got going on, so cheers mate.

Tomorrow is the last day at these altitudes, with us climbing up to 3,800m before dropping down to under 2,000m for the remainder of the tour. I'm looking forward to the following stages and hopefully we can achieve something here once the race goes into more of my territory.

Hopefully the body will be close to normal again in terms of riding, and I can actually have a crack here instead of just suffering for air.
-Jason Christie

Stage 6 Classification
1. Sergiy Lagkuti, UKR, Kolss-BDC, 4:51:16
2. Jahir Perez, COL, Ningxia Sports Lottery-Focus Cycling Team, 0:02”
3. Francisco Colorado, COL, RTS-Santic, 0:09”

General Classification
1. Vitaliy Buts, UKR, Kolss-BDC, 17:12:16
2. Sergiy Lagkuti, UKR, Kolss-BDC, s.t.
3. Yevgeniy Gidich, KAZ, Vino 4ever SKO, 0:01”

Classification Leaders
Race Leader (Yellow Jersey): Vitaliy Buts, UKR, Kolss-BDC
Points Leader (Green Jersey): Vitaliy Buts, UKR, Kolss-BDC
Mountains leader (Polka Dot Jersey): Mauricio Ortega, COL, RTS-Santic
Best Asian Rider (Blue Jersey): Yevgeniy Gidich, KAZ, Vino 4ever SKO
Most Aggressive: Juan Pablo Wilches, COL, China Continental Team of Gansu Bank
Teams classification: Kolss-BDC, 66:12:56

Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to NZ Bike Magazine. Image credit Adrian Hoe / Tour of Qinghai Lake. 
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