I had the privilege of being invited to attend the 26th International Tour of Azarbaijan in the North of Iran last week. It was a fantastic week with plenty of adventures happening during the stages as well as my own epic rides I would do on my own for training and exploring. I lugged my Nikon D90 around on my back while cycling up huge mountain climbs, but it was worth it for the superb images I captured.
The Azarbaijan International Tour finished a few days ago and now I am in Tehran about to provide coverage for the Presidents Tour of Iran which is promising to be one KILLER of a race for all the riders. It is a mountain climbers race and will suit the two Columbian climbing sensations 100%. There will be five stages, four of which will be mountainous. One stage crests a pass of 3,400m after starting in Tehran at 1300m! Stay tuned to my website for the updates on this Tour after it starts on the 25th May.
The 26th Azarbaijan Tour was the most competitive yet, with the strongest field ever to assemble on Iranian soil including the likes of Stefan Schumacher and Davide Rebelline, both coming back from drug suspensions, riding for Italian outfit Miche-Guerciotti. The formidable Iranian Tabriz Petrochemical squad were also racing along with many Eastern bloc teams coming down to Iran.
It was not a difficult tour based on the type of terrain as it was mostly highway riding, rolling roads punctuated with a few climbs with gentle gradients of around 6%. What was the deciding factor then? It was the atrocious cross-winds that were blowing hard all tour and combined with the altitude for those riders coming from sea-level, made for a very hard tour. The riders were well hosted, however, and were fed like Persian Kings everyday at the hotels. Plenty of chicken, beef and lamb kebabs to go around!
You can visit Cyclingnewsasia for the complete race reports and daily photos. Also, Velonews published a gallery of my photos and a short introductory piece about the Tour. Steve Thomas at Bikenewsasia has also published some interesting accounts of the racing, focused around the CS-Racing team that participated in the race.
I have had very limited internet access during my stay so far here in Iran, hence not being able to update my website very often. However, I hope this can change for the upcoming Presidents Tour of Iran. In the mean-time, before the tour, I am based at the Azar Sports Complex where the national cycling track is and have been doing some epic rides that I want to share with you soon.