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Racing in Iran: The 2011 International Tour of Azarbaijan

AZERBAIJAN PROVINCE, Iran (VN) — Many may find it hard to imagine racing bikes in Iran, let alone even visiting the country due to what the media tells you.  Cycling in Iran, in fact, is very popular and this is evident in the number of top Iranian road and track cyclists that have been produced over the years. Iran has three UCI-ranked tours on its calendar, including the upcoming Presidents Tour of Iran on May 25.

2011 International Cycling Tour of Azarbaijan
Stefan Schumacher (MICHE-Guerciotti) prior to the 38km team time trial. Photo: Daniel Carruthers

The UCI-ranked 2.2 Azarbaijan Cycling Tour is in its 26th year and the 2011 edition featured the strongest field ever to assemble on Persian soil. Two big name riders, coming back from drug suspension, Stefan Schumacher and Davide Rebellin, took part, representing the Italian Miche-Guercci Cycling Team.

Other notable riders include former RadioShack rider Daryl Impey, who is riding for MTN-Quebeka before joining the Pro Continential Team NetApp later this mont. Bjorn Thurau, the son of the famous Dietrich Thurau, was at the Azerbaijan Tour representing Team NSP. And the formidable Tabriz-Petrochemical Cycling Team was present, including Mehdi Sohrabi, the leader of the UCI Asian Tour points standings.

Azerbaijan is located in the northwest of Iran. The altitude starts at around 1500m (5,000 feet) and the area contains many majestic snow-capped mountains and wide-open wind swept plains. Although it lacks the iconic old city sites of Central Iran, it makes up for it with is awe-inspiring scenry and the amazing hospitality of the locals. Also be prepared to eat like a Persian king when you come. There are plenty of lamb kebabs and delicious Persian rice.  Riders had plenty of fuel to race on!

Iranian riders could be a force to be reckoned with in the world of cycling, if they were given more opportunities to obtain visas for European and other races around the world. The Tabriz-Petrochemical Team took a clean sweep of the overall GC podium to show just how strong they are and keep up the Iranian winning streak at the Azerbaijan Tour for the past seven years.

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