My personal favourite part of this event is that we aren't limited to our normal 1 or 2km loops. The judges are transported convoy style on motorbikes along the course, which allows us to have point to point races.
The solution to this would be to have a designated volunteer/ judge whose job is to inform the athletes when warnings are given out. Normally you would have a DQ board that is updated regularly and that you see every 1 or 2km, but with a point-to-point race this isn't possible. The other solution would be to have a portable DQ board. They already have a clock car and many other support vehicles along the course, it wouldn't be a stretch to have an additional car relaying warnings to the athletes.
*The yellow jersey title is a little misunderstood as it was given to the winner on the day, not the athlete leading the overall competition*
This was the only new course compared to last year. Instead of being around Taihu Lake this race was along one of the main roads in the area. In conjunction with this they also hosted a mass participation race with over 15,000 people in it, including World Champs gold and silver medalists Hong Liu and Lu Xiuzhi mixing it up with the locals.
This was the hottest day of the tour by far (26 degrees) and the heat played a large role in the race. With the previous years being hosted in October and November I don’t think anybody really expected the weather to be a factor and the pace went out in 4min K's. I went out with the main group but after 2km I was already struggling and going backwards. As the main group maintained their pace until 5km I steadily lost ground, being passed by several people who smartly went out slower.
The race of the day certainly had to go to Persy Karlstrom, who hung on to the lead group for a very long time and was rewarded with a 9th place finish. Eider Arevalo, who is gearing up for a big race this autumn and is therefore holding very good form since his 6th place at worlds last month, dominated day 1, making a commanding move with under 3km to go and holding on for victory. With 1st, 4th (Dane Bird-Smith) and 9th X-treme Beef were well out in front on the team side of things.
There was also a women's race, where things happened. Shenjie Qieyang, the first ever Olympic medalist from Tibet, beat World Champs Bronze medalist Olyanovska by 23 seconds. She won bronze in London behind rat cancer and umpa lumpa (sorry, Lashmanova and Kaniskina). She is a very nice girl, and deserves her rightful Olympic Gold. Jared was able to hold off a late challenge from Shenjie, hanging on to finish 3 seconds ahead of her. Team Asics' other 2 team members wouldn’t be so lucky.
A beautiful, scenic, 10km point to point race along side the lake. With several km's of undulating hills this course was not only physiologically challenging, but also technically challenging, making for and interesting race when all was said and done. The race started in beside a beautiful garden, giving us some time before to look around and snap some photos.
In the Women's race Olyanovska absolutely dominated, clocking 42:01, just ahead of Inaki. This was an amazing performance and shows that she is going to be a force on the international circuit for years to come! Many of the men begun to wonder if they should just pace themselves off of her and try to out kick her at the line.
This stage, situated a little ways from the lake but an amazing spot none the less, was a 6km loop completed twice for 12km. With a couple 5%+ climbs of a few hundred meters each this was certainly a tough course.
The first 5km was covered in just under 21min. At around 7km the main group was down to 6 or 7 athletes. I knew that if I let it come down to the last 1km that I would get my ass kicked, so I moved to the front and started accelerating the pace, with Dane along side me. Every time I thought I had a step on the group, they would respond, but I had managed to widdle down that main group to 5.
Unfortunately for me, it looked like I was going to come 5th again. But a last minute pit-stop for Eider moved me up into 4th. From 5-10km we were 20:26 and my last 2km was under 8min, with 34m of elevation gain and despite that, I gave up 10sec to Wang and Glavan who finished 1-2 in a sprint finish that could barely be recognized as race walking. Dane held on for 3rd just a few seconds ahead of me. On the overall I had done enough to move into 5th, just 6 seconds out of 4th, but with 3rd looking like it was out of reach.
For team Asics Inaki walked a clean race to finish 19th. Quentin, despite 90sec in time penalties, was 20th, just 1 sec ahead of Jared. We remained in 5th, with 4th within our sights 75sec ahead.
On the women's side, it was again Olyanovska and Qieyang dominating. This time though Inaki got the better of Olyanovska, beating her by a mere 2 seconds. I wish I had more to say on the women's side, but honestly, I have no idea what happened.
Going into the final day there was still a lot on the line. Wang was 18 seconds ahead of Dane for the overall. Kovalenko was 6 seconds up on me for 4th, and we were 1 minute behind Eider for 3rd. 70 seconds separated 4th to 8th, which would make the 15.6km stage an interesting battle. The course, a point-to-point on one of the many islands within Taihu lake. Flat for the first 7km or so followed by a few short but taxing climbs. The night before we were told that the race might not even happen as they were expecting a typhoon in the area. We were subsequently told the race would go ahead as planned, but to be ready for bad weather… It turned out to be a normal Vancouver day, with some light rain and a bit of wind. The wind turned out to be at our back the entire way and the rain mostly subsided, so it turned into perfect conditions for racing.
On the team side Jared had his best day (makes sense given it was the longest) with a 12th place finish. Inaki, despite a 30s stop, finished 15th. Quentin was awarded with 3:30 in penalties that pushed him down to 29th. Tom didn't walk well to his standards over the 4 days, but he was still a very valuable and worthy teammate. It was enough to move us ahead of China into 4th for the team comp. But we were 6minutes off of 3rd!
In the women's race it was Olyanovska once again doing her best to beat the guys. Her 1:07:31 was equal 12th in the men's race, crossing the line together with Jared, although I'm sure he got her on the dip. Olyanovska won the overall by more than 2minutes. Qieyang was more than 3 minutes clear in 2nd from Brigita of Lithuania who was in turn more than 2minutes clear of 4th place. Olyanovska's overall time of 3:26:02 would have been good enough for 17th overall on the men's side.