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- It’s an all-SA Championship showdown in Humewood final
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Africa’s outfit still making waves at Tour de France with a fifth-place finish
- Updated: July 20, 2015
MTN-Qhubeka’s Tour de France dream continued on Sunday as Edvald Boasson Hagen picked up a third fifth place in a stage.
Andre Griepel (Lotto-Soudal) would be the rider who took honours in the 183-kilometre 15th stage from Mende to Valence, beating John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) to the line.
After an extremely fast start that saw numerous attacks, including surges from MTN’s Daniel Teklehaimanot and Serge Pauwels, a group of nine riders went clear around the 50km mark. Team Katusha as well as Europcar were keen to keep the escape group in check and set a high tempo at the head of the peloton.
The gap never really touched the three-minute mark and once the peloton went over the category 2 Col de l’Escrinet that topped out with 57km to go, it was obvious that the break would soon be caught. The final 25km was raced with the peloton “all together” as the sprinters teams jockeyed for position.
Reinardt Janse van Rensburg would serve as the leadout man for Edvald on Sunday and the pair combined well to move into a great position in the final kilometre. Janse van Rensburg, the man they call “The Beast” in local cycling, went from 10th wheel to first, Edvald in tow, just before the final bend at 300m to go.
The kick to the line began and it was the pure power sprinters like Griepel, Degenkolb and Kristoff who were always going to have the upper hand.
Edvald kept the other pretenders at bay to secure another solid fifth place stage finish for the African team. With Serge Pauwels crossing the line 20th and Janse van Rensburg in 34th, MTN-Qhubeka would also win the stage team classification once again.
Said Janse van Rensburg: ‘It was a super-fast day today with Katusha controlling the race impressively for it to come down to a bunch sprint. My legs weren’t great but once we got into the final few kilometres I was able to switch off and do a good leadout for Edvald. In the end it was fifth place for us, which in this field is not a bad result, but something we could improve on too.’
Janse van Rensburg also had the satisfaction of knowing he had the fastest speed recorded on the day, an incredible 91.78km/h on the descent from Col de l’Escrinet.
Added Jens Zemke, MTN-Qhubeka’s Head of Performance: ‘Our goal for the day was to get a rider into the break and initially we achieved this with Serge who got into a pretty big lead group of about 24 riders. Immediately Katusha started chasing and this made it tough for some of our guys, especially Tyler and Daniel who dropped to the grupetto for the day. After this nine riders went clear but it was pretty obvious we would have a sprint today. We had a plan B for this and we prepared the sprint for Edvald. He came fifth which again is a super result for us with only big sprinters ahead of him. We also won the best team for the stage so it was a pretty good day for us.’
In the team standings, MTN-Qhubeka are lying eighth 52:32 behind leaders Movistar.
Monday’s 16th stage is a relatively straightforward stage which started in Bourg-de-Peage, in the Rhone Valley and finishes in Gap, 20km later. There’s a nasty sting in the tale in the form of the Col de Manse and a helter skelter descent down to Gap.