Antonio Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) won the 7th stage of the Tour of Austria, surviving from the early breakaway to take the victory ahead of Pawel Cieslik (CCC Sprandi) and Artem Nych (Gazprom).
The 7th stage of the Tour of Austria took place over 4 laps of a difficult 30km circuit, with the finish-line perched at the top of the category 2 Sonntagberg climb. It was again a fast start with a number of riders looking to make the early break and it was 12 riders that managed to get the jump. A crash on the first descent saw Steve Cummings have to abandon the race but fortunately our Brit sustained no serious injuries.
As the attackers reached a 2’40” lead, Lachlan Morton set off after them with one other rider, and the duo was able to bridge the gap on the penultimate lap of the race. Just after the junction was made though, the attacks started again in the lead group when reaching the circuit climb.
Matej Mohoric went clear of the early break with Nibali, Cieslik and Nych in pursuit. In the peloton, the race had also split to pieces on the penultimate climb but it did regroup somewhat on the descent, with Louis Meintjes and Morton together in that selection.
Upon reaching the climb for the final time, the 3 chasers were able to reel-in and drop Mohoric, to decide the stage among themselves. Meintjes showed good legs today, matching the GC favourites on the final climb to finish alongside the overall race leader, Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy). At the line, our South African climber secured 9th place on the stage.
Alex Sans Vega – Sport Director
Today’s stage was on a circuit with two steep climbs, the finish line was on top of the longest of the two climbs, 4km long. It was a tough circuit and we knew it was going to be hard. We wanted to try and win. We expected the last laps would be very difficult with the GC gaps still close and guys trying to make time. So we waited for the action and tried to save legs. On the first lap there was a big crash in the downhill and it changed the complexion of the race with one of the GC contenders taken out. Steve also crashed and had to go to hospital but it was later confirmed he has no serious injuries. With 2 laps to go Lachlan made an attack with another local rider and they made it across the 2-minute gap to the break but he would pay for that effort coming into the final. The break was staying away but the main bunch was very small, maybe 25 riders so Louis attacked with 600m to go with a top 10 still possible. He opened a gap but the GC contenders came back to him in the final 100m, though he still held on for 9th.