It is the most important and biggest race in Asia, attracts millions of spectators and is also among the riders something of a "myth": the Tour of Qinghai Lake in China. The tour, which takes about 2 weeks to and around the famous Qinghai Lake - one of the largest salt lakes on earth. Situated on the "Tibet Plateau", this lake is surrounded by beautiful mountain chains, which rise above 5,000 m from the ground.
What makes the race a myth, however, are the hardships the drivers are exposed to daily. Long stages over 200 to 240 km, many mountain passes and insane fast sprints. And this at an altitude of more than 2,500 m, which demands a lot from the body, because breathing and oxygen intake are infinitely difficult due to the altered oxygen partial pressure.
The team BIKE AID is already on the tour for the fourth time in a row and "the Tour de France of Asia" is always the season highlight of the team. Thus, in 2017, the successes of the previous year were set to be at least as good. After all Meron Teshome had a great 2nd place last year on a stage.
But the tour was different from the beginning. In contrast to the past few years there were only a few "sprint stages" and a lot of mountain stages. Also the rhythm in the field was different, because the gaps in the GC were quite close, every day everything was required. During the first 10 stages, the guys from BIKE AID were able to set new accents and were also well placed in sprints from larger groups. Several top 5 results came together. But it was not what all had planned and hoped for.
So on the last stage it was necessary to mobilize all the forces and to do everything possible in the expected sprint, that the fruits could also be reaped. So the guys from the Saarland showed a very offensive driving style and finally took the much-discussed "notebook" 4km to the finish line, and they all joined together - for Meron!
Another three kilometers - it is getting faster and there is still no other team passing. Another two kilometers: the pace is again increased and the field lined up in one row - still no one passes by. Another kilometer: and there it happens! In the turn, Awet goes too far and can not accelerate the pace. Emma (Amanuel Mengis) has to take over sooner than planned - but there is still no one passing. He gives everything, as if it were about his life.
Then the showdown: Meron has to straighten it and sprints. 200 m earlier than planned but it is fast - it can work! But then, on the last few meters, two riders pass a few centimeters past him. Third!
Nevertheless a great day and a super success - again on the podium at such a race!
"I am happy, even if it was not enough to win. The whole team worked incredibly well for me and great preparation. A good end to the tour ", says Meron after the finish line.
At the end, Meron also takes sixth place in the ranking of the Tour and the team takes 10th place in the team valuation. A great tour of Qinghai Lake comes to an end and BIKE AID is already looking forward to 2018!