Following Ben Greenwood’s collapse last week, Rapha-Condor riders have been on damage limitation mode at the Tour of Qinghai Lake in China.
Darren Lapthorne got the team’s race off to a reasonable enough start with a ninth place in Friday’s prologue but since then they’ve had no results to speak of .
They haven’t been pushing for them either.
“The altitude here is a massive, massive factor,” said team manager John Herety by mobile phone after today’s third road stage. “I’m just walking back on the flat here now and I’m going to have to stop because I’m out of breath.
“It kind of puts into perspective what Daniel Lloyd did here in the past. It was some ride he must have done to get second overall.”
The entire 10 day race takes place between 1,850 and 3,800 metres above sea level.
It was a combination of altitude sickness and exhaustion from the race organisation’s awkward travel arrangements that caused Greenwood to collapse at the dinner table on Thursday.
“We made a very conscious decision after Ben’s incident,” said Herety. “We realised that the travel problems and the altitude have had a very big affect on us. We’re not going to be able to compete for the GC at all and I’m more concerned that we come out of the race healthy and can press on afterwards.
“This was always going to be a stepping stone for the Tour of Ireland and the Tour of Britain anyway, although we probably did harbour some extra ambitions. The reality of it hit us within the first few hours of being here.
“We’ve now made a decision to not try and go into the red in the first five or so days. That’s the killer basically. You don’t recover.”
Herety explained his riders have been up and down coping with the altitude. He saw improvements on today’s stage from Lapthorne and Simon Richardson.
“Those two might have contested the third place today behind the break but I said across the radio ‘stick to the original plan; things are improving, lets not put ourselves into the red yet’.
“I’ve already seen riders from other teams who’ve raced the first few days hard and who are now in pieces. We’ve definitely done the right thing. A lot of riders come back from this race with their season effectively finished.
“I think we still need a couple more days and then we’ll see how they’re fixed in terms of going for stage wins.”
In total six Rapha riders remain in the race although Herety said he would pull Liam Holohan out before the finish next Sunday.
“He’s riding very well but he’s never ridden a stage race longer than three days. This is a big step up for him and I want him to be racing right to the end of the season.”
As for Rapha’s seventh rider entered for the Tour of Qinghai Lake, Ben Greenwood is now safely back in the UK.
Speaking from home this morning, he said he was tired from the journey but otherwise feeling well.
“It wasn’t the best trip,” he laughed. “I was away for six days, spent five of them travelling and the other passed out!”