Our toughest race of the year is here - the Tour of Qinghai Lake, China

Sally Prowd | Monday, July 23, 2018

Our toughest race of the year in now underway, with the first stage of the thirteen day Tour of Qinghai Lake beginning yesterday.

 

It’s the biggest test so far for the young ACA team, with the UCI race renowned as one of the toughest in the world.

 

Known as the jewel of the Asian cycling tour around the Qinghai region on the Chinese Tibetan Plateau, the event comprises 13 stages and 1841km of racing and an average altitude of 3000m, peaking at 4120m.

“It’s our biggest event of the year in terms of difficulty and length - it’s known as the fourth grand tour,” said ACA co-founder Ben Kersten.

ACA is fielding a seven-man team for the event, with Leigh Howard, Freddy Ovett, Cameron Scott, Michael Potter, Jono Noble, Toby Orchard and Ashleigh Mackay all making the team.

The riders have been in preparations for weeks, with the goal of readying their bodies for the extreme stress such altitudes produce.

Potter, Scott and Ashley Mackay have been supplementing their road training with the altitude acclimation in Australia to help avoid the serious fatigue and racing heart rate that can end a stage prematurely.

“We arrived in China a week before the start of the race to stabilize,” Kersten said.

“Before leaving for China, the guys who were in Australia were sleeping in altitude tents, or using hypoxic masks or training chambers.”

The team's two top hopes for success across the 12-stage event are Freddy Ovett and Leigh Howard, a multiple world record holder and Olympic and recent Commonwealth gold medalist.

Both riders, who have bases in Europe, have been training in the Pyrenees mountains in Andorra in the lead up to the race, to adjust to the lung-sapping conditions expected in China.

Howard, who has ridden five grand tours including the Tour de France, will lead the team during the grueling event.

“With the team we have we’ll be super happy with a stage podium from Leigh or Freddy, but we also wouldn’t be surprised to see results from Potter and Cam Scott,” Kersten said.

“The rest of the squad will be doing a lot of learning and focusing on supporting our team leaders and surviving through the end of the race.”

The young team will rely heavily on the experience of veteran Howard, who has eight professional victories and has ridden for World Tour teams Orica Greened, IAM Cycling and HTC Columbia.

Twenty two Pro Continental and Continental teams, including outfits from Europe and Asia, will compete in the event.

Stage two of the UCI 2.HC road race gets underway today, and includes eight laps of the 14.4km Xining City Circuit.

Live streaming for the event runs through till the conclusion of the race on Saturday 28th July 2018. Follow this link to watch it live.

 

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