QILIAN, Qinghai, July 27 (Xinhua) -- Hernan Aguirre built up an unassailable lead in the Tour of Qinghai Lake after winning the sixth stage on Friday.
The 22-year-old Columbian completed the short but sharp 66-km queen stage in 1:37.49, 22 seconds ahead of Italian Antonio Santoro.
Aguirre, who retains the yellow jersy and a 1:05 lead, has all but wrapped up the title of the 17th Tour of Qinghai Lake as the remaining seven stages are all flat road races.
Stage 4 winner and current race leader Aguirre and his Manzana Postobon teammates proved themselves far too strong in the mountains.
Santoro with the Monkey Town Continental Team, who finished second on the stage last year to now-retired Giro d'Italia winner Damiano Cunego, said Aguirre was an unsurmountable presence for him during the sixth stage ride, which defines the Tour as the "highest altitude bike race in the world" with its finish line 4,210 meters above sea level.
"I tried to follow the yellow jersey, but was not possible for me," said Santoro. "I try to do my best. I was second last year, it's a good result for me."
Santoro's Dutch teammate Maarten de Jonge said the steeple climbing and wind were big challenges for all the riders.
"You had to ride on the limit all the time, and also the wind, you really felt the wind when you crossed the corner, so that was quite tough," he said.
German rider Nikodemus Holler of the Bike Aid team, who is riding in the Tour of Qinghai Lake for the seond time in a row, said this stage's almost 5,000-feet ascent was too much for him.
"I am totally exhausted, this stage is killing me every year. 4,200 meters! It is too high for me, I am a German guy, I live in 200-300 meters," he said.
"A lot of stages are difficult, so it always depends on the riders, (if) they may think the difficulties are easy, they went so fast, I think the winner was almost 10 or 15 minutes faster than the last year, so that was really tough," he said.
Qinghai Lake now returns to the low country at around 3,000 meters high above seal level, where a bunch sprint is expected following a mid-stage category one climb in the 160-km route from Qilian to Menyuan.