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- Interim coach Ellis looks to take Banyana even further
- Opening round of 70 puts Williams in front
- Big medal haul for SA at Junior Commonwealth Games
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- Dednam duo win 10th SA doubles title
- Corbett leads the way as SA tally grows to 35
MTN-Qhubeka move up to seventh team at Tour de France
- Updated: July 16, 2015
The magic continues to roll out for African team MTN-Qhubeka after Wednesday’s 11th stage of the Tour de France saw Serge Pauwels finish fourth on the mountainous stage won by Tinkofff-Saxo’s Polish rider Rafal Majka.
The stage was an undulating climber’s paradise of 188km between Pau and Cauterets-Vallée de Saint-Savin.
With most teams believing the break would survive on the day, there was a huge fight to get into the early move of the day. MTN-Qhubeka’s Edvald Boasson Hagen broke away after 5km of racing with three other riders and the quartet then held on to a 30-second lead for around 35km, riding close to a 50km/h average. The peloton never gave up on the chase though and the four were eventually caught.
There was another flurry of attacks with MTN’s Daniel Teklehaimanot and Jacques Janse van Rensburg both involved in the action but again, the peloton kept bringing the race back together. It was only after 75km had been completed that seven riders eventually got away from the main field.
Pauwels was joined by Majka, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora Argon 18), Julien Simon (Cofidis), Steve Morabito and Arnaud Demare (FDJ). The leaders hit the first main obstacle of the day, the Col d’ Aspin where Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) then also rode across to the lead group.
The peloton sat up and allowed the leaders to open up a lead of just over seven minutes. When the riders reached the Col du Tormalet, Astana decided to up the tempo in the peloton and the reaction came straight away from the break. Majka attacked with 48km to go and Serge was the first to respond as the rest of the break fell behind. Serge would summit the Tormalet 1:50 behind Majka and would pull back 50sec on the descent.
Unfortunately Majka was just too strong on the day and he would solo to the victory. After Serge emptied the tank trying to bring back the Tinkoff rider, he would be caught and passed by Martin and Buchmann in the final 3km, crossing the line in a courageous fourth.
After the stage, Pauwels said: ‘The goal was to have somebody in the breakaway. It was a really hard start and we first had Edvald there. I chose my moment and that was when the good breakaway went and a new race started. In the break Majka was the strongest. I tried to fight for the victory but there was one guy stronger. I am really happy with my result though.
MTN’s High Performance Director Jens Zemke said: ‘The first hour of racing was really fast and we had Edvald in an attack of four riders. The peloton didn’t give them any real advantage, mostly 40sec until they brought them back. Then the next move was successful and we had Serge in the break.
‘On the Col d’Aspin we had a chaotic moment when we had to give Serge a new shoe, eventually we could solve the problem. On the Tormalet it was everybody for themselves. Serge would cross the famous Tormalet in second. He was super-fast on the descent and was only a minute behind Majka. Then there was a 10km section with a strong headwind before the last climb at 3km to go where he was caught by Martin and Buchman. He could not hold the wheel anymore. It was a fantastic, absolutely fantastic ride by him to achieve this top result of 4th place in the Tour de France and we are really proud of him.’
MTN’s climb up the team standings continued. They ended fourth on the day, 10 minutes behind Tinkoff-Saxo. That good return saw them improve to seventh out of 22 teams, a jump of two spots after they have moved up from 14th the previous day.
Thursday’s stage is not for the faint-hearted. Covering 195km between Lannemezan and Plateau de Beille and it’s the hardest stage of the race so far, taking in three peaks before a summit finish.
From the start, the climbs get progressively higher and harder. The second-category Col de Portet d’Aspet is first up. Only 4.3km long its 9.7% average gradient is the second-steepest mountain of the entire Tour, after the finish at Mende.
There follows the Col de la Core and Port de Lers, both first-category climbs, where the tiredness will start to set in an take its toll on the peloton.
And then they still have to tackle final hors-catègorie climb to Plateau de Beille.
Wednesday’s stage statistics as supplied by Dimension Data
67 – the number of times Pau, the self-confessed ‘Capital of the Tour’, has hosted a stage – making it the third most visited stage next to Bordeaux (80), and Paris (104).
4 – the number of times Cauterets – Vallée de Saint-Savin has been a stage town.
41.6 km – the total distance of the six categorised climbs, including the famous hors catégorie climb up Col du Tourmalet – known as ‘the distance mountain’.
1682.2 km – the distance the riders still have to travel to Paris…they aren’t even halfway yet!
2115 m above sea level – altitude of the Col du Tourmalet, the highest summit in the Pyrénées in this years’ Tour de France.
80 – the number of times Le Tour has visited the summit of the Col du Tourmalet, making it the most visited summit on the Tour de France.
30.96 km/h – Majka’s (TCS) speed as he crossed the finish line in Cauterets.
32 – the total number of KOM points Majka (TCS) won in the Pyrénées on Wednesday.
93.38 km/h – top recorded speed on the descent on the descent of the Col du Tourmalet to Luz-Saint-Sauveur by Alejandro Valverde (MOV) at km 149.
14’min 28sec – the time gap between the first and last rider.
183 – the number of riders who started today’s stage.
6 – the number of riders who withdrew from the race; the highest number of riders to retire from a single stage on this year’s Tour – Costa (LAM), Gastauer (ALM), Taraamäe (AST), Van Summeren (ALM), Bennati (TCS), and Nerz (BOA).