Linus Gerdemann from Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung was able to come back from a late mechanical to win the 4th stage of the Tour d’ Azerbaidjan earlier today. This is the 2nd win in as many days for the African Pro Continental team in Azerbaidjan after Youcef Reguigui won yesterdays stage 3. Gerdemann was able to out sprint Ilnur Zakarin (Rusvelo) at the top of the 22km HC finishing climb in Pirqulu to take an emphatic victory.
Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung showed real intent from early on in the stage when Jacques Janse van Rensburg was part of the first break that went away after just 5km of racing. Janse van Rensburg and his 5 break away companions would soon be joined by 10 other riders, including Reguigui and Gerdemann. The 16 riders formed a formidable lead group and quickly opened up a gap. Reguigui would soon drop to the peloton under team orders. As the climbing started this was the que for Janse van Rensburg and Gerdemann to attack.
At the 55km point, the 2 MTN-Qhubeka riders jumped clear of the lead group taking 2 other riders with them. Gerdemann would attack again just before the top of the first of the three climbs that awaited them during the stage. The German rider had 20″ at the summit and decided to push on alone while Janse van Rensburg would start covering moves from behind.
Gerdemann lead the race solo over the penultimate climb and was only caught by Zakarin and Lluis Mas (Caja-Rural) just after the start of the final 22km climb. Mas would not be able to follow the pace for all that long up the climb and so it was down to just the 2 riders to contest the stage as the chasers, including Janse van Rensburg, were still 2 minutes back with the peloton a further 4 minutes behind.
With 5km to go we thought it was all over for Gerdemann as he had to stop with a broken spoke. Thankfully a quick wheel change and some amazing sportsmanship from Zakarin allowed Gerdemann to come back to the front of the race. The 2 leaders dueled it out to the line with Gerdemann marking his return to professional cycling by winning the 2 man sprint. Janse van Rensburg was able to hold on for 6th.
Directeur Sportif – Manel Lacambra
The plan for today was to win the stage with Linus and try to move up in the GC with Sergio. We wanted to attack at the first climb but a dangerous break went a few km’s before the climb. We had Youcef, Jacques and Linus in the move though. At this point the situation was good because we had 3 riders in front and Sergio behind with the top GC riders. We decided to drop Youcef to the bunch behind to protect Sergio together with Johann. Then when the first climb started Linus attacked and got away solo. It was a long way to go to the finish and also there was a head wind. 2 riders joined him but when they started the last climb Linus attacked them again and just the Rusvelo rider followed him. In the group of chasers Jacques was covering all the others attacks making sure that no one else was able to escape. Back in the bunch Sergio was attacking the top GC riders trying to move up on the GC but everyone was marking him all the time. We didn’t move up on the GC because of the circumstances of the race but we are very happy with 2 stage wins and with what we did today.
In the end Linus won the Queen stage, he also took the king of the mountains leader jersey and with a excellent performance we were also the leading team on the teams classification for the stage.
Rider – Linus Gerdemann
Today was quite a hard day. I may have went on the attack a bit early in the stage but in the end it worked out well. Zakarin was very strong today and he showed good sportsmanship to wait for me after my mechanical. He really deserves to take the race lead. I’m really happy with my victory and also want to thank my team for all the support they gave me.
Stage 4 – Qabala > Pirqulu (115km)
The queen stage that will end with a HC categorised climb. There are 2 categorised climbs before the summit finish that will also ensure that the races strongest climbers will contest the stage.
Stage 5 – Baku > Baku (202km)
The longest stage of the race comes to an end with 6 laps of a 13.6km circuit which will include short sharp climb a short cobble road section too. A reduced bunch is expected to contest for the stage in a sprint.
Tour d’Azerbaïdjan (Azerbaïdjan) – (7 May – 11 May/UCI 2.1) Team Lineup
Staff: Manel Lacambra (Directeur Sportif), Yvonne Houweling (Soigneur), Nico Beyens (Soigneyr), Heiko Heinrici (Mechanic), Andreas Beck-Watt (Mechanic)