Stage 12 of the Tour de France was surrounded by controversy but in the end, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) was the stage victor and Serge Pauwels finished in 2nd place for our African Team. Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) was 3rd on the day.
The 12th stage of the Tour de France was already making headlines before the stage even got underway when the organisers had to shorten the stage by 6km, due to high winds at the top of Mont Ventoux. The stage now took in the first 10 kilometers of the Ventoux but riders would not be going all the way to the summit today. The crosswinds before the climb were once again another cause for concern and would certainly play a role in determining the outcome of the stage.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were prepared to go for it on Bastille Day though, with Serge Pauwels and Daniel Teklehaimanot part of the very early attacks. Their motivation paid off as our 2 African Team riders formed part of what would be the 13 rider break of the day. With the peloton a bit hesitant to take up the chase too early because of the threat the crosswinds posed, the big lead group were able to ride 18 minutes clear of the peloton.
With such a large advantage it was clear that the breakaway would decide the stage and our African Team were in a great position having Pauwels and Teklehaimanot represented in the front group. As soon as they hit the crowd pack Ventoux, De Gendt forced the early pace and only Pauwels and Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) could follow.
Pauwels then took up the reigns and De Gendt was dropped, only to return to Pauwels and Navarro with 5km to go. He counter attacked almost immediately and this time Pauwles responded while Navarro was dropped. The two Belgians kept testing each other right to the top of the climb but they could not shake one another. It came down to De Gendt powering over the King of the Mountain line first and then holding his effort to the new finish line some 300 meters later. Pauwels came home in a heartbreaking but terrific 2nd place.
Daniel Teklehaimanot also had a good final climb and did well to stay ahead of the yellow jersey group to finish 7th on the stage, giving our African Team two riders in the top 10. A bit further down the road, the yellow jersey race was dramatically affected when race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky), Richie Porte (BMC) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) collided with a race motorbike. The motorbike was forced to stop in the middle of the road as there was just no way through the crowd infested climb. Froome broke his bike and had to resort to running up the final climb while the rest of the GC contenders rode by. Fortunately, the race organisers neutralised that particular situation and Froome kept the yellow jersey.
JP Heynderickx – Sport Director
If we look back at today’s stage it was a good team effort because we had 2 guys in a break of 13. On the last climb Serge was very strong. He was in the front and he dropped De Gendt once, but he came back. In the last 2km it just wasn’t steep enough to drop him again. If you look back, he came second on a monumental climb, the Ventoux and this is a very good result but it still feels bad when you come so close to the victory and then just miss it.