Daily Diary: Jason Christie talks Tour of Qinghai Lake – Stage 8

By Aaron S Lee

Back below 2000m, reigning New Zealand road race champion Jason Christie happily talks to NZ Bike about stage 8 at the 2016 Tour of Qinghai Lake.

LINXIA, China—After two unlucky seasons filled with race-ending injuries, Italian sprinter Nicolas Marini (Nippo-Vini Fantini) came to the 15th ‘Qinghai Rural Credit Cup’ Tour of Qinghai Lake (UCI 2.HC) as a man on a mission.

The 22-year-old outdueled stage 2 winner and former Aspiratori Otelli (2012) teammate Jakub Mareczko (Wilier Triestina-Southeast) in a photo finish at the end of 235km to win stage 8 on Sunday, July 24.

“I lost 6kg in the last 3 months and I prepared very well for this tour,” Marini told NZ Bike. “I know the other riders very well … Mareczko was my teammate and I know he is very fast, but I knew I could beat him and I am very happy to win for my team.”

Fellow Italian Francesco Chicchi (Androni Giocattoli-Spidermec) was third, followed by five-time stage winner and last year’s points champion Marko Kump (Lampre-Merida), who is still recovering from bruised ribs following a mass pileup in the closing 2km on the opening stage last Sunday.

For Mareczko, it was a bittersweet loss, but after four leg-smashing days in the mountains, the Polish-born 22-year-old Italian is pleased with second place and looks forward to contending in the final five stages for another win.

“I started sprint so early because I didn’t have any teammates in the last kilometre because they work all day after the KOM,” Mareczko told NZ Bike. “I am happy for this second place and maybe after the rest tomorrow our team can be fresh and look for more stage wins in the second week of racing.”

Prior to the race, the three-time Tour of China II (2.1) stage winner and race runner up, had failed to reach the finish on any of his 11 previous starts in 2016, so the opportunity to do well at the sprinter-friendly Qinghai Lake had become a necessity. But before Marini could get to the three remaining circuit races to close the 13-stage, 1,916km UCI Asia Tour road race, he had to first successfully negotiate three brutal mountain stages containing hors catégorie climbs and staggering altitudes in excess of 4000m (4,120m max).

“This year has been crazy,” said the 2015 Tour of Japan stage winner. “I didn’t finish a race and there was always a reason, so to have a victory is one of the best feelings – this is the biggest win of my career.”

Ukrainian Vitaliy Buts (Kolss-BDC) continues his stranglehold on both the general classification (GC) and points classification, with teammate and fellow stage winner Sergey Lagkuti (UKR) second on GC just one second back followed by Italian Alberto Cecchin (Team Roth) at 23 seconds.

NZ Bike got the word on the day from reigning New Zealand road race champion Jason Christie (Kenyan Riders Downunder), who gives his exclusive take on stage 8.

Christie’s diary entry: Stage 8 – Ledu to Linxia, 235km
Finally a good feeling is back. It's nice being below 2000m, too.
Today kicked off with a really early wake-up call to roll out to brekky a couple of kilometres down the road at another hotel. We then left our hotel at 7am for a 30km transfer to the race start. We then started the 235km stage at 9am.

It was a rather enjoyable stage really with some awesome weather today. We had sun and temperatures hovering around 30 degrees Celsius. The stage was really scenic today, and included several tunnels through the mountains – a real experience for several guys that have never raced through a tunnel before.

At around 180km, the main hill of the day – category 2 at 1810m in elevation – split the field, but not good enough as the dropped riders made it back on unfortunately.

Coming into the final 10km, I had a rear wheel puncture (yes, I got China'd) and what can only be described nicely as a slow wheel change. I did make it back to the bunch before the finish, which was won by Italian sprinter Nicolas Marini (Nippo-Vini Fantini), who’s name many of you who are keeping up with this ‘daily diary’ will recognise from my stage 6 entry.
Chapeau Nicolas!

Anyway, another day done here with only five stages remaining. Now we endure a 440km transfer to the next town before we enjoy a well-deserved rest day tomorrow.
Until next time, stay tuned…
-Jason Christie         

Stage 8 Classification
1. Nicolas Marini, ITA, Nippo-Vini Fantini, 5:19:18
2. Jakub Mareczko, ITA, Wilier Triestina-Southeast, s.t.
3. Francesco Chicchi, ITA, Androni Giocattoli-Spidermec, s.t.

General Classification
1. Vitaliy Buts, UKR, Kolss-BDC, 31:04:51
2. Sergiy Lagkuti, UKR, Kolss-BDC, 0:01
3. Alberto Cecchin, ITA, Team Roth, 0:23

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): Zhandos Bizhigitov, KAZ, Vino 4ever SKO
Most Aggressive: Carlos Quintero, COL, China Continental Team of Gansu Bank
Teams classification: Kolss-BDC, 93:18:34

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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