Jason Christie talks Tour of Qinghai Lake – Stage 11

By Aaron S. Lee

Jason Christie launches a 90km solo break on stage 11 to earn ‘most aggressive rider’ award, and the reigning New Zealand champion tells NZ Bike all about it.

Stage 11 finish.

YINCHUAN, China—Jakub Mareczko’s (Wilier Triestina-Southeast) stage 2 win seems like a lifetime ago for the Polish-born 22-year-old Italian after spending the past eight stages enduring scorching heat, breathtaking altitudes and nearly 1,400km (1,397) since.

However, the two-time Presidential Tour of Turkey (UCI 2.HC) stage winner added another double to his 2016 campaign with a stage 11 sprint victory at the 15th ‘Qinghai Rural Credit Cup’ Tour of Qinghai Lake (2.HC) on Thursday, July 28.

Mareczko, who also claimed stage wins at the Tour de San Luis (2.1) and Le Tour de Langkawi (2.HC) earlier this year, overcame tired legs from the previous week to outsprint Meron Teshome (Stradalli-Bike Aid) and previous back-to-back stage winner Marko Kump (Lampre-Merida) in the final of the 122km Yinchuan city circuit.

“The past few days have been very hard for me,” Mareczko admitted after the race. “Yesterday was very long (240km) and the altitude it was 2200m with an average speed of 45km/h.

“Today there was a breakaway in the front, but my team did an amazing job to close in the final kilometres and put me in front for the sprint and the win.”

Weighing a full kilogram lighter than this time last year, when he had to abandon the race following due to the effects of a stage 2 crash, Mareczko was well prepared for the hardships of Qinghai Lake in order to finish the 13-stage, 1,916km UCI Asia Tour road race – something he was unable to do at the Giro d’Italia (2.UWT) in May after he was forced to withdraw during stage 5.

While Mareczko won the stage, it was reigning New Zealand road race champion Jason Christie (Kenyan Riders Downunder) who nearly stole the show after recovering from an early-race puncture with an impressive 90km solo break that nearly went the distance before being absorbed inside the final 20km.

“I could've sat back and had an easy day with the individual time trial still ahead tomorrow,” said the 25-year-old Christchurch native. “But having not gotten a lot out of this tour in terms of results, I chucked my nose to the wind and went off alone.

“I thought I may as well keep going, collect some sprint primes along the way and just have a bit of fun.”

While Ukrainian Vitaliy Buts (Kolss-BDC) has maintained his stranglehold on the yellow leaders jersey since stage 3, the stage 4 winner relinquished his green points jersey to Italian Daniele Colli (Nippo-Vini Fantini), who has been ‘Mr. Consistent’ during the race with six top 5 finishes, including two runner ups.

Only two stages remain, including a 23km individual time trial on Friday and a final 95km circuit race to close the race on Saturday.

NZ Bike caught up with Christie immediately after the stage to get the scoop on the solo break that nearly won the South Islander the day and earned him podium honours.

Jason Christie Stage 11.

Christie’s diary entry: Stage 11 – Yinchuan Circuit Race, 122km

After yesterday's epic 240km stage and insane 440km transfer immediately following the finish, we finally made it to what can only be described as one of the biggest hotels I've ever stayed in.

I'm lucky to room alone on tours this year, and I can only say a king-sized bed would look like a single compared to the thing I had to sleep on last night. It was truly something else.

Once I'd dropped my stuff in my room, I enjoyed some decent food for the first time in days there – this hotel really had it all.

Anyway, we kicked off the stage today at 10am following,  yes, yet another transfer to the start. The weather was mint … actually, it was so hot with temperatures around the 35-degree Celsius mark.

Once the 122km stage started, I found myself with a puncture inside the first 10km. After catching back up to the peloton, it seemed no breaks had been successful.

You know, I could've sat back and had an easy day with the individual time trial tomorrow, but having not gotten a lot out of this tour in terms of results, I chucked my nose to the wind and went off alone.

I had a couple of chasers while I was up the road between the peloton and myself, but I couldn't be bothered waiting for them. It was always likely to be a sprint finish for the stage and, yes, it’s much harder alone than with a group. But if they are not good enough to catch me, I thought I may as well keep going, collect some sprint primes along the way and just have a bit of fun.

Looking down I saw that I had covered the first 100km in 2 hours 5 minutes with most of it being alone, but only getting a gap of up to 3 minutes, I knew the peloton had no intention of letting me have more rein.

As my time gap came down, I did ease off a little and was caught with under 20km remaining. For the remainder of the race, I sat in the bunch until the finish, which was eventually won by Jakub Mareczko.

For my efforts, I was lucky enough to collect the most aggressive prize of the day. Now for … yes, you guessed it, yet another transfer to the next hotel for tonight.

Until next time, stay tuned…

Jason Christie

Stage 11 Classification
1. Jakub Mareczko, ITA, Wilier Triestina-Southeast, 2:39:02
2. Meron Teshome, ERI, Stradalli-Bike Aid, s.t.
3. Marko Kump, SLO, Lampre-Merida, s.t.
General Classification
1. Vitaliy Buts, UKR, Kolss-BDC, 38:36:09
2. Sergiy Lagkuti, UKR, Kolss-BDC, 0:05
3. Alberto Cecchin, ITA, Team Roth, 0:26
Classification Leaders
Race Leader (Yellow Jersey): Vitaliy Buts, UKR, Kolss-BDC
Points Leader (Green Jersey): Daniele Colli, ITA, Nippo-Vini Fantini
Mountains leader (Polka Dot Jersey): Mauricio Ortega, COL, RTS-Santic
Best Asian Rider (Blue Jersey): Yevgeniy Gidich, KAZ, Vino 4ever SKO
Most Aggressive: Jason Christie, NZL, Kenyan Riders Downunder
Teams classification: Kolss-BDC, 129:49:43

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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