By Greg Johnson in Sydney, Australia
Australia's Jai Crawford is en route to China's Tour of Qinghai Lake were he has two aims - a top ten finish and a European contract for 2008. The Giant Asia rider performed strongly in the build up to the 2.HC event, taking second overall at last week's Tour of East Java in Indonesia.
"I am aiming at a top ten GC result, I feel that will be satisfactory and give the European teams confirmation of my ability," explained Crawford. "I have taken results from every international stage race I have ridden this year.
"I am confident I can go to another level given the opportunity," declared the youngster from Tasmania. "I want to ride in Europe again, this time with good health and a competent team."
Crawford, who currently rides for his Asian team in return for airfares and a bike, told Cyclingnews earlier this season that he was targeting the July 14 - 22 Qinghai Lake race to secure the chance to return to Europe. Since then, the 23 year-old has spent three months training in Tasmania.
"My condition is as good as I can make given my limited racing program, so I am satisfied," he said. "The unknown is how my body will cope with the high altitude of the Qinghai Lake region. Right now in training it feels fine but I am not racing yet."
Crawford's dream of performing at cycling's Elite level in Europe suffered some setbacks over the past two seasons. In 2005, Crawford and then teammate Luke Bettany both resigned from their startup squad, citing teething problems within the team as the reason for leaving. Last year Crawford was dealt another blow when a serious bout of glandular fever kept him sidelined for most of the season.
With the dramas of the past two season behind him, Crawford has performed strongly in the few races he's contested. After taking overall victory at January's Tour of Siam, he finished fifth on general classification in February's Tour de Langkawi, after storming up the gruelling climb to Genting Highlands in fifth place, behind names like David George, José Rujano and stage winner Jose Serpa.
"Java was exceptionally hot coming straight from winter in Tassie, but my body coped pretty well and the second day I produced the form I hoped I was building in my three months training at home," he explained of his most recent success. "I finished second that day to Borjn Glassner but for me it was more about testing my legs on the two categorised climbs in the last 50 kilometres. The test showed promising results and I expect to step up now before Qinghai Lake."
Read more about Jai Crawford in this interview.