Tipper wins crash-marred Stage 11 final in Qinghai Lake

Englishman Jacob Tipper avoids bunch sprint chaos to claim ‘biggest win of career’ on fast Zhongwei circuit at 17th Tour of Qinghai Lake …

As expected, the 11th stage of the 2018 Tour of Qinghai Lake (UCI 2.HC) was in the books before it seemingly started, but not before it left a considerable impact. In the end it was British rider Jacob Tipper (Memil-CCN) who took the win over Spaniard Daniel López (Burgos-BH) and Dutchman Andre Looij (Monkey Town) at the conclusion of the 110-kilometre Zhongwei city circuit on Thursday after being led by Aussie teammate Samuel Volkers out of harms way of the ensuing calamity that followed.

While Tipper was crossing the finish victoriously, a bunch sprint pileup put Dutchman Wim Kleiman (Monkey Town), Australian Leigh Howard (Australian Cycling Academy) and Italian Luca Pacioni (Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia) all on the deck. No word on the race status of Kleiman, but Howard did flash media a ‘thumbs up’ gesture as German Daniel Bichlmann (Bike Aid) and American Alexey Vermeulen (Interpro Stradalli) rode escort on either side.

“I had already gone,” claimed Tipper. “I had kicked into the lead and was on the right-hand side with 200 metres to go, and whether they would have come around me or not, I don’t know. But I can only beat who stays upright, can’t I?”

Looij also talked to media after the race about the crash that claimed one of his teammates.

“I saw a lot of people go to the left and my choice was sprinting to the right side,” Looij explained. “It was good, but not good enough for the win.”

For current points leader Pacioni, who has three stage runner-ups to his credit during the first 11 stages, he was initially listed as a probably DNS for Friday’s 107km Yinchuan circuit, but Wilier Triestina told Tutto Bici the 24-year-old Italian would in fact be on the penultimate start.

One rider not so lucky was Dutchman Tim Ariesen (Ningxia Sports Lottery-Livall), who suffered a serious blow to the head, which like Kleiman split his helmet in two. Unlike Kleiman, the 24-year-old, who claimed back-to-back podiums mid-race was immediately rushed to a local hospital where further examination is ongoing. Word from race officials indicated Ariesen suffered a separated shoulder, but no critical injuries or head trauma.

As for Tipper, it was a banner day at the office, despite it being only a part-time gig.

“Not too bad! First time I had to sprint the entire tour, and it’s gone all right, so I’m pretty happy about that,” Tipper told Eurosport. “I’m not a full-time pro like a lot of these guys, but maybe after winning today that could change.

“It was all thanks to the Aussie today, Sam Volkers,” he continued while praising his lead-out man. “My teammate was absolutely unreal. He changed the tactic a little bit. Normally he puts us in position and the team tries to lead out a little bit, but we’ve got some climbers and we are still trying to preserve [general classification] a little bit, and today we just said ‘Sam have a run at it’ and I’ll put faith and follow his position.

“Every little time he went right, I was thinking ‘should I go there? … I’m following him! I’m following him!’ and he put me in the perfect position, so I opened up and as soon as I opened up I saw nothing but the finish line.”

When asked about the importance of the win, the 26-year-old part-time coach answered in

“It’s pretty massive,” admitted Tipper. “Ticking off the pro win on Pro Cycling Stats is what it’s all about, isn’t it?”

With two stages remaining, there are no shakeups expected on any of the classifications unless Pacioni pulls out as the 13th and final stage approaches on Saturday.

Two-time stage winner and current race leader Hernan Aguirre (Manzana Postobón), who leads his teammate Hernando Bohórquez (COL) by 1 minute 5 seconds on general classification, is a lock to remain in yellow until end of the race barring any mishaps, injuries or ailments. With no more climbs remaining, the 22-year-old Colombian has now wrapped up the mountains classification as well. Kazakhstan’s Ilya Davidenok (Beijing XDS-Innova) still holds the blue jersey for ‘Best Asian Rider’ as well.

Photos: Adrian Hoe & Sonoko Tanaka