“Very happy,” he added. “First big tour stage win, so can’t ask for much more than that.” Despite complaints from Grosu of being “closed in” by Scott during the final 300 metres, Scott assured Eurosport there was no foul play. “I dont think I boxed anyone in,” said Scott. “There was room on either side all the time. Don’t think there is anything to worry about.” A four-man break immediately launched over the KOM and opened a gap of 6 minutes 15 seconds before the peloton reeled them in on the flats alongside Qinghai Lake atop the Tibetan Plateau with 64km remaining.
Soon after, Chinese rider Wang Jiancai (Qinghai Tianyoude) attacked from the field to score an intermediate sprint victory with Ukrainian Bohdan Musiienko (Lviv Cycling) on the chase. Both were joined by Belarusian Stansilau Bazhkou (Minsk Cycling) and Turk Nazim Bakirci (Torku Sekerspor) for the next 45km before all were absorbed by a peloton starting to splinter into five groups toward the finish.
Australian Cycling Academy’s sports director Stu Shaw claimed Scott was biding his time over the race’s initial mountain stages for the appropriate time to strike. “We’re really excited,” Shaw said. “We knew Cam Scott is a talent, and we actually really believed in him and backed him today. He took it easy the last two days in the hills, and we know he’s a serious talent and has really flown under the radar. “For such a young rider this goes a long way.”
According to Shaw, the role of fellow Australian track star and former WorldTour rider Leigh Howard is invaluable in Scott’s development, however the New South Wales native’s skillset has never been in down. “Having Leigh Howard there, who is like a brother to Cam, you haven’t got anyone better to guide him through,” explained Shaw. “Look, Cam’s on the track program, but we know he can seriously climb, he can do it all. He can climb, he can time trial, he’s one of the best pursuiters in the world as well.
“We just want to see him get a chance to race these sorts of races whilst chasing his track ambitions and the Olympics.” For the often soft spoken Howard, himself a former track world champion, Scott’s victory was personally rewarding for the 28-year-old Victorian, whose last road race came at the Tour of Norway while riding for Irish Pro Continental team Aqua Blue Sport in May 2017. “I’m almost more happy with this than some of my other wins myself,” said the former Orica-GreenEdge rider. “My goal is to come here and try to help these young guys, especially Cam. I’ve been racing and training with him for the last couple of years and I know how talented he is.
“Look, I’m just a part of it,” he continued. “I was just guiding him. He did the hard part and I’m just so happy and so proud of him.” With one mountain stage remaining, only 2015 race winner Radoslav Rogina (Adria Mobil) is within striking distance (nine seconds) of Stage 4 winner and current race leader Hernan Aguirre and his Manzana Postobón teammate Hernando Bohórquez, who is second overall on general classification (+0:07) after finishing just behind Aguirre the day before.
However, given the Colombian teammates climbing form it will be a tall task to overtake them given the final mountain stage featuring two HC climbs, including a summit finish at 4120m. Radoslav admitted “I don’t think I can beat him” on the climbs following his third-place finish behind the Manzana duo, and with the remainder of the GC rivals at +2:19 or more adrift, the odds are stacked against the field to unseat Aguirre atop the overall leaderboard given the remaining seven stages following the queen stage is predominately sprinter friendly.
Whether it be in Qinghai or other potential races abroad on the team’s calendar, ACA’s Shaw believes the team has the confidence to earn more results now that the team has proven itself in a UCI 2.HC Asia Tour stage race. “The first few days the guys were just trying to find that they were actually not out of their depth and just see if they were in the race at all, and after a few days I think they started to believe,” he said. “Now they realise they are actually that good, so hopefully we can get some more opportunities in China and the rest of Asia.”