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Dimension Data’s Pauwels stays in TDF mix

Dimension

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s Serge Pauwels was once again in the thick of things as the Tour de France tackled the daunting climb of Alpe D’Huez in the 12th stage of the tour on Thursday.

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) won the stage, sprinting to the victory at the summit of Alpe D’Huez while wearing the yellow jersey. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) was second on the stage and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) finished in third.

It was incredibly tough as the peloton had to take on over 5,000 metres of climbing during the 175-kilometre stage. A slight downhill to the first big climb of the day ensured a fast start and the African Dimension Data team had Julien Vermote watching over proceedings in order to help place Pauwels in the break of the day.

As the first climb was reached, the Col de la Madeleine, Movistar started sending riders up the road to put pressure on Team Sky, which saw the race explode. Pauwels used his experience and waited for the right moment to make his move. The Belgian was soon off the front and forcing the pace to ensure the selection was made, making it three days out of three in the breakaway.

Halfway up the 25km climb and it was a group of around 18 riders who were clear of the peloton with Pauwels. With 20 king of the mountain points on offer at the summit, it was a sprint to the top with Julian Alaphilippe (Quickstep-Floors) edging out Warren Barguil (Fortuneo) and Pauwels.

The category two Montvernier was the next climb up and Pierre Rolland (EF-Education First) got there first ahead of Alaphilippe and Pauwels. The next big obstacle of the day, the 29km Col de la Croix de Fer, would go a long way to shaping the race as attacks came from the break and numerous other riders lost contact back in the main peloton.

Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) emerged as the strongest on that particular climb, going solo from the break and opening up a healthy lead, with the peloton just over six minutes behind by the time he reached the summit. It was an incredible effort by the Dutchman as he led the race all the way to the foot of the famed Alpe D’Huez on his own.

Starting the climb with a four-minute lead over the main GC group, it was going to be a tall order for him to hold on for the victory. In the end, Team Sky put in yet another brilliant team performance to ensure Kruijswijk was caught and Thomas could sprint away from their closest rivals to take the win.

For Dimension Data, Pauwels was able to stay in contention for the polka dot jersey, as he sits in third place now, just behind Barguil and competition leader Alaphilippe. The team’s remaining five riders all made it to the finish on Thursday, on a day that saw eight riders not make it through to start Friday’s 13th stage.

Tour de France debutant Jay Thomson had this to say about the day’s riding: ‘I must say, I think I paid for my efforts yesterday. I didn’t feel so good today and on the first climb, I was spat out the back. We were in sixes and sevens and there were just small groups all over the mountain.

‘Everybody was always just trying to get up to the next one. I just kept on fighting, keeping a rhythm because I knew Reinardt [Janse van Rensburg] was only one or two minutes in front of me.

‘On the Croix de Fer, I went full gas and over the top, I was just able to make the big group for the valley road. I just hope tomorrow [Friday] we can have an easier ride before setting Edvald [Boasson Hagen] up for the sprint.’


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