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MTN-Qhubeka hold on to second spot in TDF team standings
- Updated: July 23, 2015
Africa’s first Tour de France team, MTN-Qhubeka stood rock firm as the race continued its journey into the Alps with Wednesday’s Stage 17.
Three of the team’s riders ended in the top five of the 161-kilometre ride between Digne-les-Bains to Pra Loup.
They were Serge Pauwels, Daniel Teklehaimanot and Merhawi Kudus, who finished ninth, 12th and 14th respectively. That saw MTN-Qhubeka post a combined time of 12hr 50min 41sec to hold of Movistar by 3:53.
They also maintain their second spot on the General Classification rankings, 16:57 behind Movistar more than 16 minutes clear of the next outfit, Team Sky.
Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) was the stage winner on the day. With a large break of 28 riders going clear today, MTN-Qhubeka had their three riders placed in the big move of the day. Pauwels, Teklehaimanot and Kudus were the three riders on the attack in what would be a tough first stage in the Alps with five categorised climbs on the menu.
The real action began when the lead group started attacking each other with 50km to go. Geschke would eventually get away alone and he was being chased by Teklehaimanot on the lower slopes cat 1 Col d’ Allos. A few more attacks from the chasers, which were all marked by Pauwel and Kudus, saw Teklehaimanot being caught. Near the summit of the penultimate climb, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) put in a stinging attack that broke the chase group apart.
There was a rather treacherous descent to the final 6km climb with Pinot even hitting the tarmac. Geschke though, started the final climb with a 1:51 lead over his nearest chaser and it was enough to solo to victory at the top of the climb. Pauwels was our first rider across the line in 9th place, while Teklehaimanot and Kudus finished in 12th and 14th respectively. It was a superb performance that saw our team finishing as the best team on the stage once again, pulling back 3:53 on Movistar who lead the team standings. Another significant result was that Pauwels moved up to 15th place on the general classification.
There was also another race on within the stage today for MTN’s climbing sensation, Louis Meintjes, who was fighting to finish within the time cut. He started the stage after falling ill overnight, with stomach problems severely affecting the youngster. He would spend the majority of the race alone and well off the pace. Eventually, with just three minutes to spare before the time cut, he crossed the line.
Reflecting on the stage and Pauwels said: ‘I wasn’t really planning to go in the breakaway today because I thought it might be a stage for the GC riders. When I saw there were a lot of riders attacking and going up the road early on I thought I better get involved. We also had Daniel and Merhawi up there so it was a good breakaway for us. I was also able to make up some time for the GC so it was another good day out for us.
Sport Director Michel Cornelisse: ‘Once again it was another amazing result for our team today. It has now been three days in a row that we have won the best team stage classification. Serge was again very good and also Merhawi and Daniel, they were all very strong. The team are fantastic and we are really happy right now.’
Thursday’s stage has been tagged as the most scenic of the tour. It’s a 186.5km ride from Gap to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne with the spectacular switchbacks on the Lacets de Montvernier making for stunning aerial shots of the riders. It’s a tough stage where none of the GC contenders will be able to just sit back and relax. Riders will be torn between saving energy and attacking. Another important consideration is that the descent of the Glandon is very technical and comes 40km from the finish.
Some more interesting stage data as supplied by Dimension Data
168 riders started the stage with 163 finishing.
2815.8 km – the distance Le Tour riders have travelled from the start in Utrecht.
44.82 km/h – speed of winner in the intermediate sprint, Vaugrenard (FDJ).
3 – the number of Alpine summit finishes this year, the most since 1996.
1 – a first time summit of the Col de Colle-Saint-Michel for Le Tour.
104 – Green Jersey points difference between Sagan (TCS) with 420 points and Greipel (LTS) on 316 points.
Distance and average gradients of the five categorised climbs on the stage: – 6 km at 5.3% – Col des Lèques (cat 3) at km 40 – 6.1 km at 3.1% – Col de Toutes Aures (cat 3) at km 67 – 11 km at 5.2% – Col de la Colle-Saint-Michel (cat 2) at km 96 – 14 km at 5.5% – Col d’Allos (cat 1) at km 139 – 6.2 km at 6.5% – Pra Loup (cat 2) at km 161
59.29 km/h – average speed on the descent from Col de la Colle-Saint-Michel.
35.48 km/h – the average speed on the stage.
37:09 – the time gap between the first and last rider.