Alpecin-Fenix won their second stage of the Tour de France in succession, this time with Tim Merlier sprinting to victory on stage 3. Team Qhubeka NextHash had Max Walscheid in the mix, as he took 10th place on the line.
Stage 3 of the Tour de France was the first opportunity for the sprinters as the 182km stage to Pontivy included only two category 4 climbs along the route. Unlike many traditional sprint stages, which can be rather uneventful until the final kick, today just seemed chaotic with numerous crashes plaguing the peloton throughout the day.
Team Qhubeka NextHash were not unaffected as Nicholas Dlamini & Sean Bennett came into trouble with 69km to go, both riders would dust themselves off and carry on though. Victor Campenaerts narrowly missed two pile up’s inside of 10km to go and then, unfortunately, Simon Clarke went down at high speed with 3km to go.
There was yet another crash in the final sprint for the line, which Max Walscheid managed to avoid as he secured our first top-10 result of the Tour, crossing the line 10th.
Fortunately, all Team Qhubeka NextHash riders were still able to complete the stage, including Clarke who was our worst crash-affected rider.
Max Walscheid- Rider
“Once again, I hope everyone who went down is ok, I didn’t speak to Simon yet. In the first case, I am happy that I didn’t go down and I am also proud of our teamwork.
I am happy to finish in the top 10, which is something we can really build on. I think we showed good legs and if we keep progressing, more will be possible, but for today, I think we did a great job as a team.”
With 60km to go, not really at a crucial point but with the roads getting smaller tams were starting to organise themselves and as we were trying to negotiate our way to the front on one of the corners we had a bit of a fall.
Sean lost his wheel in one of the corners and I was just behind him and with the rain I couldn’t really avoid it and then I just had ride straight into him. We’re both okay, just slight bruises and then in the final we tried getting back but with the roads being small it was almost impossible for both of us to get back to the boys in front as most of the teams in front blocked the road.
The team rode amazingly today and Max finished top-10; it’s a good start and something we can build on and the commitment from everyone was there so that really shows the Ubuntu spirit.
Tomorrow is a similar stage so we’ll hope to be up there again and target a better result.