Speciality: Stage races
Major results: 1. Tour of East Java (2.2) 2010
Team 2010: Tabriz Petrochemical Cycling Team
Team 2011: not yet announced
Best Mock List placing: new
Web: none, instead, a general link to cycling in Iran:
Iran stands for many things: the Islamic revolution, atomic problems, the green revolution, Ali Daei – but for cycling? Virtually unnoticed by most westerners, Iran has over the years become the number one cycling nation in Asia (with the exception of Kazakhstan). The Iranians have done very well at the two most important races in Asia, the Tour de Langkawi and the Tour of Qinghai Lake, with podium placings, stage wins and overall wins. The best Iranian Continental team, Tabriz Petrochemical, won the UCI Asia Tour top team ranking in 2009 for the second time. A large part of this development is due to the recently deceased Wolfram Linder, the legendary DDR trainer and later Sport Director at Coast, who prepared the Iranians from 2005 on for the Olympic games in Beijing.
The best-known Iranian cyclists are Ghader Mizbani Iranagh and Hossein Askari, two young climbers, but here we will concentrate on Hossein Alizadeh, another youngster on his way up to greatness. For many years there have been more UCI races in Iran than in Germany giving the young riders their chances. Races like the Taftan Tour, the Tour of Milad du Nour, the Tour of Azerbaijan, or the President Tour of Iran often bring new names into the results, partly because few foreign teams participate. After the first solid stage race results in 2007, Alizadeh appeared as overall second in the Taftan Tour (2.2) and the Tour of Milad (2.2) in 2008, his first time with significant results near the top. As a reward, he started in the U23 Worlds race in Varese. He crossed the finish line 15 minutes after the new world champion Fabian Duarte as ninth from last.
Riding for the Continental team of the Islamic Azad University, the Iranian took part in 2009 for the first time in a major Asian cycling event, the Tour de Langkawi (2.HC) but was unable to end the race. At the Azerbaijan Tour (2.2), the most important Iranan race which takes place in the province sharing the name of the neighboring country, he finished seventh overall. That was enough to help him transfer for 2010 to the best Iranian team, Tabriz Petrochemical, which features not only Ghader Mizbani and Hossein Askari, but also Telekom veteran Andrei Mizourov and world-wanderer Tobias Erler.
Here Alizadeh had his breakthrough. At the Tour of East Java (2.2) in Indonesia, Alizadeh won the opening stage out of a lead group and held on to the overall lead until the end – the first overall stage race win for the Iranian! This performance was enough for him to be named to the Tabriz squad for the Tour of Qanghai Lake (2.HC), the highpoint, next to Langkawi, of the Asian cycling season. After two second places from Ghader Mizbani and second and third from Hossein Askaris, the Iranians were ready for their first overall victory. What happened was that the visiting European teams concentrated on the sprint finishes (where Iranian Mehdi Sohrabi was also successfully involved), but the overall victory went to Hossein Askari. Two more Iranians made it into the top ten: veteran Gahder Mizbadi and the youngster Hossein Alizadeh. The young Iranian surprised everyone by finishing ninth overall amongst the significantly older and more experienced riders.
The question of the perspectives for Alizadeh arose. Would he be able to ride in Europe equally as well? A participation of the Tabriz team in the Tour des Pyrenees was cancelled due to visa problems. Garder Mizbani was said to have been on the verge of signing with Manolo Saiz' Liberty Seguros team years before and shoud have ridden for the Italian Cinelli team in 2007 – but either visa problems or the Iranian bureaucracy were always in the way.
The difficulties which Iranian cyclist face are bizarre. That riding in European races is not possible because of visa problems is understandable, but the fact that Hossein Askari was threatened with disciplinary problems by the head of the Iranian cycling federation for his victory in the Tour of Qinghai Lake makes it clear which problems they face. The reason for the threat: at the closing podium ceremony, Askari opened a bottle of champagne – a violation of Islamic law.
This background must be recognized. With no perspective for a professional sports career, continually seeking the balance of religious/political premises on the one hand and the aspects of the life of a cyclist on the other hand, riders like Hossein Alizadeh are more than just exotics or a symbol of the globalization of cycling: they just want to ride races, just like every other western cyclist.
nominated by ocana & gardener, written by gardener, translated by tick