The opening stage of the Criterium du Dauphine would be a close on perfect start for Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung as Edvald Boasson Hagen sprinted to 3rd place at the finish and Daniel Teklehaimanot pulled on the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey.
Our African team started the stage off on the front foot as Daniel got into the early break of the day that went away in the first 10km of the stage. Daniel was joined by Bjorn Thurau (Bora Argon 18), Romain Guillemois (Eurpocar) and Maarten Wynants (Lotto-Jumbo) and the 4 riders pushed out a 7 minute lead relatively quickly.
The main part of the route would be made up by a 16km circuit that would be completed 6 times. There was a cat 3 climb on the circuit, meaning the King of the Mountains jersey was up for grabs. Daniel grabbed the opportunity with both hands and won 5 of the KOM sprints. His efforts were good enough to pull on the polka dot jersey at the end of the stage and this would be a significant milestone for our African team as it would be the first World Tour jersey won in our team’s history.
The peloton though, were still intent on bringing the break back before the stage end and that, they did. On the last time up the circuits climb, a number of attacks saw 5 rider group ride across the 20″ gap to Thurau, who was the last surviving member of the break. Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) was part of this new lead group and he would attack the group with 2km to go.
MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung had Steve Cummings leading the chase behind as our African team looked to set the stage up for Edvald. Reinardt Janse van Rensburg would then put in a stellar effort over the final kilometer to leadout Edvald. Kennaugh would hold on to take the victory, arriving just 2 seconds ahead of Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) who was 2nd with Edvald finishing 3rd by a few centimeters.
Daniel Teklehaimanot – Rider
It was a really good day in front for me and the team. My legs were feeling strong all day on the climbs so I was able to go for the KOM points. Our group of 4 worked well together so we could stay away for all the climbs. It was only on the last two laps that I started to get tired but already I had enough points to get the jersey. I am really happy for the team and also personally to have this jersey. Having the jersey is a great opportunity to show off our team before the Tour de France and puts some light on our campaign to raise 5000 bicycles this year.
Edvald Boasson Hagen – Rider
We had Daniel in front today which was very good because we were able to do nothing in the peloton and save for the final. It was nice that he could win the Mountains jersey as well. The team did great to set me up for the sprint with a strong leadout. I was feeling good and I was happy with the sprint I was able to do but Pete just manged to stay away. Overall it was a good day for our team and we are happy with our performance. I am looking forward to the coming days now.
Jens Zemke – Head of Performance
This is our first jersey in a World Tour race and to wear our first World Tour jersey with one of our African riders is just incredible. What an opening 130km it was, we wanted Daniel in the breakaway and we got him in the break. He was the strongest on the climbs so he won most of the climbing points. He was on the podium today and he will wear the jersey tomorrow. In the final we wanted to ride for Edvald as the stage suited him with a pretty hard final, and we didn’t expect too many in the finish. Reinie did a really nice leadout for Edvald and he came 3rd after Kennaugh survived. It was a superb result for us and it builds up some good confidence ahead of the Tour de France.