The first stage of the Route du Sud saw Jesus Herrada (Movistar) take the win ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) on the top of the category 3 Payolle climb. The good news for Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung was that after returning to racing after breaking his collarbone at the Tour of Turkey, Merhawi Kudus was able to make the final selection of the day and finished in 13th position.
The 171km stage saw 4 riders escape from the peloton early on but with an almost gradual climb from start to finish today, it was always going to be hard for any move to get away. With 20km to go, Yoann Palliot (La Pomme Marseille) was the final breakaway rider to be caught with 20km to go, setting up an exciting finale on the climb to the line.
The climb wasn’t all that steep so despite a number of attacks nobody could really get away. The high pace would gradually shell riders out the back and it was a case of just trying to hang on to the peloton in the end. Both Merhawi Kudus and Ignatas Konovalovas would finish with the front group of 34 riders.
Rider – Ignatas Konovalovas
I have had some knee issues of late, i also have a bit of flu now too but i don’t have any real pain in me knee, just some strange feelings. Today was a very hot day but i have spent the last week at home in Spain and it was even hotter there so it was okay for me today. The legs were feeling quite today and the last climb was not as hard as we expected, the last kilo’s were only at 2%-3% average. I think the peloton was also expecting it to be more difficult so no one actually took responsibility for the final kilometers. Tomorrow it will be a totally different day i think.
Directeur Sportif – Michel Cornelisse
I was pretty with happy with today. Ignatas was very good and I was afraid Merhawi might have lost a few seconds in the sprint but that was not the case. Tomorrow will be the big classification decider with the finish on the uphill cat 1.
Route du Sud (France) – (20-22 June/UCI 2.1) Team Lineup
Merhawi Kudus (ERI)
Dennis van Niekerk (RSA)
Martin Wesemann (RSA)
Tsgabu Grmay (ETH)
Ignatas Konovalovas (LTU)
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