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Photo ©: Bettini

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Tour of Qinghai Lake - 2.3

China, July 17-25, 2004

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Stage 1 - July 17: Xining Circuit, 104.4 km

Navigators on a winning course

By Gudo Kramer, Marco Polo Cycling Team

Viktor Rapinski from the Navigators Insurance Cycling Team sprinted to clinch the 104km first stage of the Tour of Qinghai Lake on Saturday, a circuit race around Xining, the capital city of Qinghai Province. The Belorussian wears both the yellow jersey for the overall race leader and the green jersey for the leading sprinter.

"It's my first time to compete at such high altitude," said Rapinski. "We did good today, for me and for my team. My job was just to sprint for 200 meters. The rain made it a bit dangerous, but the result is good, anyway."

The young sprinter was cautious about his future performance, however: "I don't know if I can keep the jersey, because anything could happen in a race, especially in the climbing stages," he said.

The first stage began in the sunshine but was fazed by an unexpected shower after two laps. It became intermittently rainy until the end of the race, which caused several riders to slip on the last corner before the finish line.

A few riders had tried to break away from the main bunch, however the advantage was never decisive. Rapinski, who hid in the main group during the whole stage, simply sped up for the last 200 meters and crossed the finish line first, clocking two hours, 11 minutes and five seconds. Alexandre Usov of Phonak Cycling Team from Switzerland and Kraft Dennis of Action Team from the Netherlands finished second and third respectively.

Iglinskiy Maxim from Kazakhstan won the blue jersey for the leading Asian rider, but he did not appear at the ceremony for unknown reasons, which will incur a warning or even a penalty.

Top Chinese rider Wang Gou Zhang, who spent four days in the yellow jersey here last year, finished ninth, while Hong Kong star rider Kam Po Wong placed 32nd. However, the two climbing specialists still hope to snatch the yellow jersey in the coming stages. The same goes for Marco Polo rider Michael Carter (USA), who is currently in eighth position on GC.

The nine-day-long third edition of the Tour de Qinghai Lake race, which featured a grand opening ceremony here on Saturday, has been promoted from a category 2.5 to 2.3 by the International Cycling Union (UCI).

Eleven professional teams, seven national and two regional teams from countries including France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United States, will vie for overall honours along the 1,292km course, with the highest altitude being 3,792 meters and the lowest 2,200 meters, making it the "highest" cycling race in the world.


1 Viktor Rapinski (Blr) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team    2.11.05
2 Alexandre Usov (Blr) Phonak                                       
3 Dennis Kraft (Ger) Action ATI                                     
General classification after stage 1
1 Viktor Rapinski (Blr) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team    2.10.55
2 Alexandre Usov (Blr) Phonak                                   0.04
3 Dennis Kraft (Ger) Action ATI                                 0.06