Kenny Van Hummel (Androni Giocattoli) won the opening stage of the Tour d’ Azerbaidjan by beating Vitaliy Buts (Kolss) and Davide Vigano (Caja-Rural) respectively, in the sprint finish. Youcef Reguigui would be the highest placed finisher for Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung on the stage by sprinting into 5th position.
The day would be characterised by strong winds that blew throughout the stage. Within the first 20km’s of racing there was already 3 definitive echelons formed out on the road. Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung had Sergio Pardilla, Linus Gerdemann and Johann van Zyl in the lead group of 40 riders with Youcef Reguigui and Jacques Janse van Rensburg in the 2nd group of 30 riders close behind. After around 90km’s of racing the 2 front groups would join and were able to open up a lead of just over 4’00” on the chasing peloton.
Coming into the final 50km’s which would be raced over 5 laps of 10km’s, Reguigui would jump clear of the leading group with 8 other riders. 5 riders would not be able to sustain the pace though and with 20km to go, Reguigui, Klemin Stimulak (Adria Mobil), Luis Mas (Caja-Rural) and Mykhalo Kononenko (Kolss) were the 4 riders left out front. Their 30″ gap was not enough though as they were reeled in just inside of 10km to go. Reguigui showed good strength to still contest the bunch sprint at the end and took out a top 5 finish on the stage.
Directuer Sportif – Manel Lacambra
Today was a very hard stage because of the wind. After 5km the peloton was split into many groups. The wind was very strong and together with the sand it made it very difficult to handle the bike. At the km 10 there was 4 groups, in the first group we only had Linus but at the km 30 the 2nd group with Sergio and Johann made contact with the first group. At this point the 3rd group and 4th were compact again.
A few km’s later the last group split in two again and a small group crossed over to the first group with Jacques and Youcef there. Dennis had a small crash when he was trying to come across and this caused him to stay in the last group. On the final circuits we were in many moves but it ended in a sprint and Youcef got a nice 5th place of the stage.
We have saved a very hard stage today and we expect a hard cross wind for tomorrow too. I am sure a lot of riders will be tired from today and I hope we can have a good day tomorrow.
Rider – Sergio Pardilla
Today was a tough day mostly because of the strong wind that was blowing. It was like we were racing a stage in the Tour of Qatar. From km 0 there were already multiple groups forming. Linus, Johann and Myself were in the front group of 40 riders early on then Jacques and Youcef joined us a bit later with another small group. Over the 5 laps on the finishing circuit the wind was no longer a problem and numerous attacks went but none were able to get away. I am quite tired now but look forward to the next stage.
Stage 2 – Baku > Ismayilli (187km)
An undulating route where we expect strong winds to affect the race. It is likely that riders will arrive at the finish in a number of small groups.
Stage 3 – Qabala > Qabala (180km)
An out and back route with a few climbs in the middle of the stage to soften the peloton up for the long gradual rise to the finish. There is a chance a break could make it if the 6 rider teams don’t cooperate all that well, otherwise a sprint for the strong men will be likely.
Stage 4 – Qabala > Pirqulu (115km)
The queen stage that will end with a HC categorised climb. There are 2 categorised climbs before the summit finish that will also ensure that the races strongest climbers will contest the stage.
Stage 5 – Baku > Baku (202km)
The longest stage of the race comes to an end with 6 laps of a 13.6km circuit which will include short sharp climb a short cobble road section too. A reduced bunch is expected to contest for the stage in a sprint.
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)