YINCHUAN, China (VN) — The 14th Tour of Qinghai Lake (UCI 2.HC) turned into the ‘Adria Mobil Show’ right from the start as the Slovenian Continental team emphatically stamped its authority over the 22-squad field, which featured WorldTour team Lampre-Merida, with two opening stage wins from Marko Kump.
The 26-year-old former Tinkoff-Saxo rider would go on to claim five stages in total to tie Slovenian compatriot Luka Mezgec (Giant-Alpecin) for second most in race history, just three behind Italian Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) with eight.
“Last two weeks were pretty successful for me and my team,” Kump told VeloNews. “This race is very important because it’s a just one level below WorldTour, so five stage wins is way more than I was expecting before this race.
“It’s not just five stage wins, it’s also a few second places where I was pretty close,” he continued. “But like I said many times, it’s not just me, it’s the whole team and without them those five first place finishes would not be possible.”
It was far from smooth sailing for Kump, who was constantly at odds with rival Mattia Gavazzi (Amore & Vita-Selle SMP). The 32-year-old Italian won four of the last five stages including the final stage 13 on Saturday. Hostilities between the two started on stage 7 following what Kump said was a “blatant disregard for the rules” when he saw Gavazzi hitching a ride from the team car – the same behavior that disqualified Gavazzi from the 2013 Giro d’Italia.
The war of words turned physical on stage 9 when Gavazzi punched Kump in the face during the race – an action that resulted in Gavazzi being relegated by the chief commissaire, John McDonnell. Kump took the stage victory that day.
Now with 16 wins in a contract year, what’s next for Kump?
“We will see after this race,” said Kump, who believes he has developed into a more confident and opportunistic rider since his days with Tinkoff-Saxo. “I will talk with the team and we will see what’s next – I don’t know yet.
“Of course I would like to go back to WorldTour, and if there was a chance I would take it, but right now I’m happy where I am.”
Kump was not the only team rider to pad his palmares with a stage victory, as fellow countryman and winner of both the Tour d’Azerbaïdjan and Tour of Slovenia Primoz Roglic also put a run on the board by winning stage 5 – a confusing finish that witnessed teammate Radoslav Rogina take a wrong turn inside the final 500 meters, costing him a potential stage win and chance to take the overall lead that day, a lead that instead went from Oleksandr Polivoda (Kolss-BDC) to Hossein Alizadeh (RTS-Santic).
Only 107 of the 217 riders on the original start list managed to make it the final stage, which speaks of the sheer magnitude of the 13-stage, 2,027-kilometer race that twists and turns along the Tibetan Plateau at an average altitude of more than 3,000 meters above sea level.
While Gavazzi owned the final stage, it was Rogina who ultimately won the race. The 36-year-old Croatian rode patiently behind race leader Hossein Alizadeh until finally lifting the yellow leaders jersey from the Iranian – and former stage and race winner (2012) – on stage 10.
“I have been here three times and I came close to winning,” said Rogina after the race. “This year I make it and that’s why I am so happy.
“I don’t know what to say … every race is hard to win, especially this one.
“My team and I did a really good job and we go home very happy.”
Rogina’s victory is Adria Mobil’s first overall win in an hors catégorie-rated race, while Kump personally topped off a stellar week by claiming the green points jersey.
“Before the season we do not expect this kind of year,” said Adria Mobil sports director Bostjan Mervar. “We’ve won three tours now and it’s been a great success for us. I hope we can continue until the end of this season and into next year.”
Alizadeh may have lost yellow, but the 27-year-old finished with the blue jersey for the “best Asian rider” classification. Francesco Colorado (Ningxia Sports Lottery-Focus) claimed the polka dot mountains classification after locking up the jersey on stage 10.
Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to VeloNews.