Youcef Reguigui from Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung sprinted to 2nd place during the final stage of the Tour d’ Azerbaidjan earlier today. Reguigui was clearly the fastest sprinter in the reduced peloton but the Algerian fast man had to start his sprint from around 10th position. Reguigui was able to catch 8 of the riders in front of him before running out of road with Justin Jules (La Pomme Marseille) still just ahead. Adrian Honkisz (CCC Polsat) was the rider in 3rd place.
The final stage would prove to be a great spectacle with the 202km ending with 6 laps of a tough 13.6km circuit that included a short steep climb on a cobbled surface. Entering the circuit, 3 riders had 5’00” gap over the peloton but their lead would decrease rapidly as Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung were intent on putting the peloton into difficulty on the climb each lap. Linus Gerdemann (MTN) was the rider that would appear at the front of the peloton at the bottom of the climb as he began to ramp up the pace.
With 33km to go, Gerdemann had successfully helped to reduce the peloton to just 40 odd riders and the now 2 leaders had less than a minutes advantage. With the break within sight, a number of attacks and counter attacks went off the front of the peloton causing even more riders to be dropped from the head of the race. Heading into the final 14km lap, the race was all together with only 25 riders, including 4 from MTN-Qhubeka, as they prepared for one final ascent of the cobbled hill.
Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural) put in a really hard attack on the climb and it looked to be a dangerous move so Reguigui and 2 other riders quickly bridged the gap. With the sprinting prowess of Reguigui present though, the break did not want to drive the move to the line and so it all came back together with 5km to go. Jacques Janse van Rensburg then did a superb job at keeping things under control by driving the peloton before Gerdemann dropped Reguigui off for the sprint with 1km to go. The final few meters were a bit erratic with Reguigui getting slightly boxed in.
In the end the 2nd place on the stage was a great result for the team. Leaving the Tour d’ Azerbaidjan, Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung take with them 2 stage wins, another stage podium and the King of the Mountains jersey won Linus Gerdemann making for a very successful week of racing by Africa’s only Professional Continental Team.
Directeur Sportif – Manel Lacambra
Today the stage started with a high speed and many riders tried to go in the break. We were in all the important moves until the break of 3 went away, it was a good one for us because we knew some teams will want to close it on the final circuit to give themselves the option to win the stage. Our goal was to have a top result on this stage and we had some different options for the final circuit. The circuit was very hard and technical with cobblestones.
When we saw that Youcef was in the front group after the selection it was clear for the team to control the race to finish in sprint. Our guys did an excellent team job again. Unluckily for us Sergio had a puncture in the last lap and lost time on the GC. In the final lap Linus put Youcef in a good position for the final sprint but a rider from another team rode into him before last corner and he lost a bit of position. In the final he finished with a great 2nd position.
I am very happy after a good performance this week and for how well the team raced the whole tour. We had some bad luck with mechanicals and crashes. Without them i’m sure we would have done much better but I am very proud of these guys. They have a great attitude and always enjoy cycling.
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)