World Wide Cycling

                 Qinghai-Tibet 2002



Marco Polo Cycling Club

After last years succesful participation, with the victory of the General Classification by Jamsran Ulzii-Orshikh from Mongolia, we had to go back to this epic race. We had good results in last month's Qinghai Lake tour with a 2nd place on G.C. (click here to see the report) and wanted to win this race.


However the travel to China was already a race.... read the report bellow.


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The Chinese people love to take photos from the cyclists. Here Nathan Dahlberg takes some Chinese children on his arms. (Photographer: Wilco Geerts) 


The Marco Polo Cycling Club had big troubles to get to the Qinghai-Tibet Cycling Race (august 27 - September 8th). Visa formalities and stubborn airline employees cost the team two days of travelling extra. After three full days of travelling (including one night in a park in Copenhagen and getting visas on Sunday in a Chinese Embassy that opened only for Marco Polo...) the team arrived during the first stage. 'Just' one rider didn't make it there, Jason Allen from New Zealand got stuck in Seoul and had to go home alone. It is the first time that the Marco Polo team had so much trouble to get to a race. The team thanks the (mostly Chinese) people that helped them on their way!!

Luckily the commissaries had some understanding for the problems of getting into China and gave the Marco Polo riders permission to start in the second stage, with the time of the last rider of the first stage, he lost 26 minutes...


In this second stage Marco Polo rider Nathan Dahlberg did the impossible and finished second in a very hard stage. This, coming from the Netherlands (sea level), after three days on planes, embassies and airports, on 4000 meters altitude!!!

Jamsran Ulzii-Orshikh from Mongolia won the first and second stage and is Tour leader. Last year Jamsran won this race for Marco Polo, this year he is racing for Giant Asian Racing Team.


Marco Polo line up:

Nathan Dahlberg (New Zealand)

Alexander van Bavel (Netherlands)

Lex Nederlof (Netherlands)

Tsang Kai Ming (Hong Kong)


Mechanic: Wilco Geerts

Team director: Allan Wolhuter  


Alexander: "We had an official document from the embassy that declared that we could travel to China without visa. However the people from the flight company would not let us in the flight. Half of our luggage left to China but we had to stay in Copenhagen. So we went into town and found a nice "hotel": the park. Next day on a Sunday we arranged that they opened the Chinese embassy for the Marco Polo Cycling Club. With our new visa we could leave for China, with another flight over Bangkok, because the seats we were promised were not available."


Lex Nederlof in a break-away in the empty landscape of the Qinghai Plateau. The Mongolian team is making tempo. (Photographer: Wilco Geerts)


After the terrible travel to Xining (three days and a half on airports, sleeping in a park, seven hours time difference and over 3000 meters altitude difference) Marco Polo rider (and president!) Nathan Dahlberg is continuing his incredible series of results. He became second the day after arrival. Then he won a stage, he won another stage and he won a third stage!


In the sixth stage the experienced rider and traveller from New Zealand had his worst result in the Tour of Qinghai - Tibet so far... he finished third. Because the team missed the first stage and all got punished with 26 minutes, the Marco Polo team is still not leading the classifications. Jamsran Ulzii-Orshikh from Mongolia is still Tour leader.


Nathan Dahlberg on the podium after one of his stage wins, Chinese national television broadcasted every stage. (Photographer: Wilco Geerts)


Alexander: "We camped 4 times in military camps. That was really survival, rooms with 4 double floor beds, no mattresses, just wooden shelves, no shower and the toilet was open air."


Wilco: "In the military camps the toilets were just a concrete plate were you had to stand. If there were more people you were standing or bending next to each other. This was nothing for me, so my diet was no food at all when we were at the military camps. If you don't eat you don't need to go."



Have a drink after dinner with the Mongolians in a sleepingroom at one of the military camps. (Photographer: ?)


Wilco: "At the border of China and Tibet we met a Dutch cyclist. He had ridden all the way from the Netherlands and wanted to go to Tibet. He had big troubles to pass the border because he had no visa. He was happy to meet us and loved the Marco Polo Cycling Club and the clothing, so we sold him a jersey. And then at the start of the stage we suddenly had an extra rider in the field. This guy, with his fully packed travel bicycle, joined in the peloton and passed the border without a problem. This is going to be a new use of the jerseys, they are valid as visa!"



Marco Polo report 7th stage, by team director Allan Wolhuter:


Today went from Andue to Naque 115 km, altitude 4500 m, very, very cold and windy, tail cross wind. All of our boys combined to put the hammer down and completely blew the race apart.

This meant we moved into 3rd place in the Team GC, managed to take 30 minutes out of the Gansu Team to take 3rd, bear in mind we stared at a time penalty of 1 hour 18 minutes, after we missed the first stage. Minutes are a bit easier to catch back though, on this altitude... not on the best riders, though. We remain completely chanceless for the top positions in GC of course.

The team did awesome today, Lex Nederlof 3rd, Alexander van Bavel 4th, Nathan Dahlberg 11th and Tsang Kai Ming is now 6th in the Chinese GC classification.

Overall Nathan is 11th (after his three stage wins!!), Lex 13 th, Alexander 15th and Tsang 20th, the moral is super high and now its stage wins all the the way to Lhasa, Tibet.

Jamsran Ulzii-Orshikh from Mongolia (Giant Asia) remains leader in GC.


Tomorrow goes from Naque to Dangxiong, short hard hilly roller coaster stage of 70 km.


Allan from the city of Naque


Lex Nederlof second in a stage, the white scarfs are a traditional Tibetan gift. (Photographer: Wilco Geerts)

Short report stage 7 and 8  by Nathan Dahlberg, winner of three stages in this Tour:  

Stage 7 and 8 were at very high altitude (4500 - 4900 meters), with lots of climbing. However the stages were only 80 - 90 kms long and very strong headwinds stopped any significant breakaways, both stages ending in a bunch sprint, although 19 year old Boldbatoor of Mongolia was alone on stage 8 to win by a handful of seconds from Ulzii (2nd) and Lex Nederlof (3rd) from Marco Polo , Ulziii having won the previous stage (6) from ? and our Lex Nederlof (3rd) in a sprint. For the Marco Polo team, the main thing was we passed Gansu to become third team after Giant and Mongolia. Our Hong Kong team member Tsang constantly improved, moving to 19th overall, Lex 14th, Aleksander van Bavel 16th, Nathan 10th. This all starting 26 minutes back.. German Rosbach won the final 2 stages (stage 9 and 10) in Lhasa, both very cold, snowing in the mountains. Mongolians lasted well in these circumstances... GC final: Ulzii Orshikh Jamsran (MGL) 1st, Sergey Derivyanov (Kirz) 2nd and Ulziis uncle (also from Mongolia) 3rd.

The closing ceremony in Lhasa, Tibet. In the background the famous Potalo Palace. (Photographer: Wilco Geerts)




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