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Reinardt rolls on
- Updated: March 30, 2012
By Mark Etheridge
South Africa’s MTN-Qhubeka team continues to make merry in the Tour du Maroc as the race enters its toughest stage on Friday.
Thursday saw the seventh of 10 stages and although, for a change, a South African didn’t win or place second, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg remains the man to catch on the General Classification (GC) standings in this Moroccan race.
The seventh stage was a ride of 172 kilometres between Tinghir and Ouarzazate and after early fears of flooding on the route after heavy overnight rain, the dawn skies were clear and blue and, most importantly, just a gentle breeze after the gales that have buffeted the riders for most of the tour thus far.
Relatively flat and no sharp turns or corners, the stage saw four riders eventually escaping after the MTN-Qhubeka outfit had kept a close eye on any danger combinations sneaking off. Of the breakaway group the best-placed GC rider was 15 minutes behind stage six winner Janse Van Rensburg and were given a license to race.
The front group were reined into no more than an eight-minute gap and after the group split in the final stages Moroccan international Tarik Chaoufi ended eight seconds ahead of countryman MedSaid El Ammoury and Japan’s Kenji Itami took third.
Janse van Rensburg took fifth and his advantage over the second-placed GC rider, Adil Jelloul, is 38seconds. The Pretoria based All Africa Games time trial champion has won three of the seven stages so far and teammate Arran Brown two. Brown had a nasty crash in the sixth stage but is back up and riding for the team.
“We’ve been having to do a lot of pacing to keep Reini out of an wind and deliver him to the line as fresh as possible,” said climbing ace Dennis van Niekerk on Thursday.
Van Niekerk will no doubt have his part to play in Friday’s “queen stage” a 202km slog from Ouarzazate to Marrakesh. The longest stage of the 10-leg event, it has two third category climbs and a 2nd category monster climb en route.
Says MTN-Qhubeka team manager Kevin Campbell: Friday is when the tour will ultimately be decided. Reinardt is riding well and looks to be the best rider in the tour so far. I am confident that the team is firmly behind him and that he will not disappoint. There are many tired legs in this peleton, but the team is focused and determined.”