By Paul Verkuylen in Xining, China
Riding his fourth Tour of Qinghai Lake, Australia's Rhys Pollock (GE-Marco Polo) is currently still within striking distance of the overall win in the 2008 edition after seven stages. Just 27 seconds down in sixth place, Pollock could steal the jersey away from the more fancied riders such as Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing) and current leader Hossein Askari (Tabriz Petrochemical Team).
"I am feeling pretty good. The first few days I thought I would just see how it goes and if I was in the hunt for a good GC I would try hard on the climbs," he explained to Cyclingnews.
When the race finally turned uphill on stages five and six, Pollock was not only climbing well, he was finishing in the front group. He attributed this feat to the knowledge built up riding the tour each year since 2005.
"Knowing that it comes back on the descents because they are so long is an advantage," he said. "Yesterday I went over the climb in a reasonably good position and was able to have a bit of a go on the descent and catch the front guys. With some other strong riders like David McCann and the Polish guy [Marek Rutkiewicz] we were able to stay away to the finish."
Pollock was not expecting to have such good form for the Chinese race after recently finishing the Tour of Japan-Korea. He is also just one of three riders left in the race from his Marco Polo team.
"I didn't think that I would be in this position before the start of the tour. I am a pretty big guy and not a super climber, but I always seem to be able to climb well at this race.
"I like the high competition. I get a little bit of extra motivation and push myself that little bit harder. I don't have any other strong climbers in my team that can help me out in the climbs.
With just three stages remaining, two in the mountains before the final circuit race in Xining, the race is still wide open. Pollock hopes that his strong showing here will open the door to bigger things in the future. "I am on the hunt for a bigger team for next year so that I can race in Europe," he explained.
"Hopefully this tour can show that I can be a good rider in the longer tours."