Today’s 146km stage from Kota Kinabalu to Mount Kinabalu was the day we hoped we would make our bid for overall honors at this years race. Our tactics centred around staying at the head of affairs and biding our time until the final 10km climb to the finish and then hopefully using numbers and climbing ability to counter Tabriz and take the win.
We were aware that tabriz have a history of long range, two pronged attacks and gave the boys strict instructions to be in touching distance of them at all times. Tabriz controlled the tempo to the base of the first Cat One then took off with Mizbani and old mate that won Qinghai Lake earlier this month. Despite the boys trying to go with them they were unable to and the four of them formed an 11 strong chase group that included Esben and Clarke (Baku), Yin, Fitrianto and Jones (CCN), Galedao (T7E) and Askari (TPT).
Amazingly and despite Jai and Nathan riding a strong tempo for the entire climb the two Tabiz riders managed to put more than 6 minutes into them! An unwillingness from the other teams to chase lead us to make the decision to ride for third as chasing alone would have been suicide. Big Joe who had been yo yoing on and off for most of the stage made a bold attack at the base of the final climb with the hope of setting up the boys for the counter. No one reacted though and Joe disappeared. Once Joe was well up Nathan attacked and rode clear with Jai covering Askari and Esben who were the only ones left. At the line Askari managed to get over Jai with Esben just behind and Sam following a handful of seconds later.
The boys showed their strength but were understandably upset by the “unreal” climbing of the Tabriz riders. For you boffins out there Nathan averaged 6 w/kg on the Cat One and lost 6 minutes so the two riders from Tabriz would have given Lance Armstrong a run for his money and we all know what happened there. The fight against doping should not be confined to the World Tour and Europe. Asia is a cycling hot bed and they are producing some great riders and some great races but that is all at risk unless people pull their heads out of the sand and speak out. As an organisation we have made our views very clear. We have written to the UCI and have made numerous representations to officials at the race so hopefully something will come of it.