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Photo: © Anthony Tan

Moving on up: The Trent Wilson Journal 2003

Welcome to the Trent Wilson Journal for 2003. The young iTeamNova rider was one of the six who made the cut when the Australian Div III team merged with RDM-Flanders to form Flanders-iTeamNova, and move into Division II.

Throwing it in the gutter

Tour of Qinghai Lake, August 10-17


I am back in Gent again now after my latest road trip, this time to China for the Tour of Qinghai Lake. It was very interesting to say the least. The tour was very well organised, with a very big prize money list which attracted National teams from all around the globe. Along with a lot of the other boys, I think this tour can kick on to be the next Tour of Langkawi. This tour was mainly run around the huge Qinghai Lake, staying at very reasonable hotels apart from one night. The organisers are planning on building a sky-rise hotel at this particular spot to fit the UCI's regulations of a 2.3 UCI tour. Once this is built, along with the prize list and the possible move to July, I think it will attract more teams in the future and move up from being a 2.5 UCI tour to a 2.3 and will then be a bigger all round event.

This year's event attracted teams like the Italian National pro squad, which ended up winning the overall classification and four out of the eight stages. The Aussie Under 23 boys were there along with teams from Spain, France, Holland, South Africa, Canada and obviously all around Asia. When we arrived in Beijing it was a very balmy 40 degrees and the humidity was through the roof. There was no chance we were ever going to be able to go training with three lane road containing cars six abreast in any which way they pleased.

Al Iacuone, Jamie Drew and I hired town bikes and rode to the Forbidden City for some touristy stuff. It was a lot of fun but for me the highlight was riding the town bike nearly sitting on the top tube while dodging cars, and riding on the bike path with another three hundred Chinese - very funny!

Next stop was Xining which is where the tour was based for the majority of the time. Once again training was dangerous with eight million people in the city and I'm sure every one of them was on the road. The organisers had organised a private 7km strip of road which we could train on trouble free with no traffic, so many hot laps were done around there.

Xining is at 2200m altitude so it took a bit of getting used to, especially in the race when you take a drink and it takes you 20 seconds to recover after the lack of oxygen while swallowing. The tour spent the majority of its time around the 3000m mark.

Down to the action. The race started with a 90km circuit race around Xining, with crowds in excess of 500,000 people. Yes, that's right, you had to be there to see it and believe it. An 8km circuit with the crowd ten deep at the least. It came down to a bunch kick with the break getting caught 4km from the finish. We did the lead-out for Dave Macca, Scotty leaving him on the front 200m out. Macca was second with Carrara from Italy third but the surprise was the hill-climber Kam Po Wong who got over Macca to win by a tire. It was a great job done by the whole team.

Stage two was 180km which climbed gradually up for 90km just after the start, becoming really steep in the last 10km. After this we made our way to the lake to fight the wind and the 3400m altitude. Macca and I made the early break of 12 riders only to be caught 5km from the top of the climb. I was cooked and blew but over the top we had Al, Dom Perras and Macca in the front. Macca finished fifth in the stage and was outright leader in the sprint comp.

Day three was mainly flat with a lot of wind. The 170km stage had a gradual 10km climb just after the start which once again kicked up at the top. A break went early and we had Dom in it but it all went wrong at the top of the climb. I punctured two kilometres from the top just as Dom blew after a big effort to jump across to the break. The race split up and when the dust settled there were 30 riders in the front and we had Al there. Not the best situation, so we waited 10km and threw it in the gutter splitting the bunch. It came back together so we waited again, then for the second time we threw it in the gutter again with help from the Italians this time. The next 100km was spent swapping off hard and gradually bringing the split back. In the end, after 130km of chasing the deficit was only 30secs. Alby finished in the top 10.

The next day was a short stage, 120km. After a KOM which was sprinted at 70km/h we once again threw it in the gutter, catching a few GC riders out. Unfortunately, fellow Aussie Glen Chadwick was out the back with a puncture which we knew nothing about. At the end it was a 20 rider sprint for the win. The team did another great job to lead Dave Macca out and he won it quite comfortably.

Day five was the last stage around the lake and this time we got to drop down that 90km descent we did in stage 2. At the 18km mark we led Macca out for the first sprint of the day which he won to improve his lead in the sprint comp. With a strong head wind it was always going to be difficult for a break to get away. The Chinese were also riding a strong tempo for their leader. In the next intermediate sprint Macca was pushed out and didn't score any points leaving the competition wide open with the South African only two points down. We went down the 90km descent and it turned into a bunch kick to the finish. We did the lead-out again for Macca but he was taken out by a rider on the second last corner.

After a night back in Xining, day six was when we hit the real mountains. In this 170km stage we hit a few foothills followed by a 5km climb and then the big 20km climb that went up to 3900m. It was then downhill to the finish. The day started well with Scotty Guyton making the early break and gaining a good advantage before the mountain. The day didn't finish the way we'd have liked, though. Alby pulled a hamstring muscle which has been lingering for months. He had to step off the bike while in the front group with 20km to go. Dom and Macca limited their losses to finish just behind the front group.

The last big day of the tour was 100km rolling until we hit another 20km monster climb and again downhill to the finish. Our major aim of the day was to wrap the sprint jersey up with the last sprint of the tour, at the 30km mark. It didn't go to plan for us, a South African got the win putting him on equal points and he got the nod on a count back. On the climb Dom rode well to mix it with the front guys while I finally found my climbing legs to only go hunger flat 5km from the top.

The last stage was without a doubt one of the easiest stages I've ever ridden in any tour and how I think all tours should be finished. It was another circuit race around Xining, this time 100km. The crowd was once again huge. The Italians had the lead on GC so they rode tempo and let a break go after two laps. We had Dom in it, so we were content. The Italians rode a really cruisy tempo all race letting the break win the stage by just over a minute. Dom was third out of the nine riders in the break. Drewy ended up 11th and Scotty 15th to add to the prize list.

As I said before, the tour was well organised and I'll have no hesitation about going back. The food was also particularly good, but it was good to get home and have a pasta or veggie feed. After the tour it was time to go shopping while we had a day in Beijing. Everything was so cheap, there wasn't a cyclist not seen entering a DVD shop or clothing markets. Next, is a few races in Belgium, followed by a few one-dayers in Italy.