The Subway – Avanti Pro Cycling Team have plans to make an impact with a stage win in one of the highest cycle races in the world, the Tour de Qinghai Lake in China.
The tour starts on Friday with a criterium and includes nine stages, 1518 kilometres of racing and climbs to 3,870 metres, with the minimum of 1,880m making it the highest cycle tour event in the world. The highest point in this year’s Tour de France is at 2,115 metres over the Col du Tourmalet.
The Tour de Qinghai Lake has attracted a very competitive international field from throughout the world. International Cycling governing body, the UCI, has graded the Qinghai Tour as UCI 2.HC, which is at the highest level, only second to the Tour de France. and other Grand Tours.
Team Co-owner Hayden Godfrey said the seven man team had expectations of making their presence felt in the tough event.
“The guys are coming together from Europe, The Unites States and New Zealand, and have high hopes of making an impact in the tour.”
“Joe Cooper and James Williamson will be looking at GC (general classification). Cooper has had some good form and preparation in New Zealand while Williamson finished his preparation off at altitude in Colorado and has been racing in the United States. Sam Horgan and Eric Drower will be looking at stage opportunities along with the rest of the team.”
Godfrey said it was not that easy to gauge how the team will perform with so many variables like the extreme altitude, coming from a winter preparation and racing in China which usually presents some unique challenges.
“All things considered it would be a fantastic result for the Subway Avanti Team if we managed a stage win.”
Team members have all been doing some specific altitude acclimatisation work with those based in New Zealand working with Altitude Training Company Airo and their IHT (Intermittent Hypoxic Training) system which Godfrey hopes will help them adjust to the very high altitudes the Tour of Qinghai Lakes starts and climbs to.
“Most of the team has prepared in the New Zealand winter which is not ideal but might be an advantage if the weather turns a bit foul as we have heard it can do.”
Tour of Qinghai Lake is one of the most important events on the Asian cycling calendar, and as New Zealand’s only UCI registered team, the Subway-Avanti Pro Cycling Team were keen to repeat some of the success it had in its first international outing at last year’s Tour of Hainan in China.
“This tour is a very different beast with extreme altitude being the biggest factor in making this race one of the hardest tours on the UCI calendar,” Godfrey said.
The team will be managed for the first time by former Commonwealth and Olympic Games cyclist Graeme Miller and includes Williamson, Cooper, Horgan, Drower, Nick Lovegrove, Ryan Wills and new signing Ian Smallman.
A total of 147 riders from 21 teams, including UCI pro-continental teams, UCI continental teams and national teams will take part in the ‘highest’ cycle race in the world, which has $ USD300,000 in prize money at stake.
The nine day tour goes through the region that was hit by a devastating earthquake in April where over 500 people were killed. Approximately ninety percent of the homes in the region were levelled leaving most of the population homeless. Humanitarian efforts have been needed to return the area back to its pre-earthquake state.