Arran Brown notched a second consecutive stage win of the Tour de Maroc in Morocco on Monday, writes Mark Etheridge.
After taking Sunday’s third stage of 163-kilometres between Fes and Khenifra, the MTN-Qhubeka outfit came out fighting again in their bid to dominate the tour and Brown and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg took the first two spots, just as they did on Sunday.
The fourth stage was slightly shorter at 142.5km and was ridden between Khenifra and Midelt with dusty deserts, rolling hills and relentless wind making things all the harder.
The stage included three classified climbs in the first 50km and the South African team’s task was made no easier by strongman Bradley Potgieter having mechanical difficulties in the first 30km. He needed two bike swops and roadside repairs by mechanic Casper Bester and ended up well down in the field on Monday.
The host Moroccan national team were determined to regain some national pride but MTN Qhubeka had other ideas and Dennis van Niekerk, Martin Wesemann and Meron Russom all worked well together. The final stages of the day’s racing saw a small lead group of around two still left in contention.
“The five MTN guys read the situation perfectly,” said team manager Kevin Campbell. “Reinardt timed his lead-out perfectly, setting up Arran for his second win, while still having the strength to see off any challenges to claim second. Reinardt remains points leader ahead of Arran and the South Africans have distanced themselves from any sprint challengers.”
Brown covered the stage in 3hr 28min 41sec. On the GC (General Classification) Janse van Rensburg holds a 38sec advantage of Morocco’s Adil Jelloul with Brown in fourth overall (2:20 back).
Campbell said the team had been well received in Morocco. “Cycling fans along the route as well as some of the local press have commented on what a terrific job the team are doing and it’s truly satisfying to see that all the hard work we’ve put in this year ÔÇô┬áboth on and off the bike ÔÇô is paying dividends. Having said that there are still some tough roads ahead and we know the Moroccans are not about to lie down and gift us their tour so there’s still lots of racing to be done.”
Stage five on Tuesday is the second shortest stage of the tour, a 120km ride between Midelt and Errachidia.
Meanwhile after a successful start to their European season in Portugal another South African outfit, the Bonitas team race their second event in Portugal this weekend. That’s the Volta Santa Maria da Feiro event starting on Friday and ending on Sunday.
Then it’s on to Spain for three races, starting with the Klassika Primavera Amorebieta (UCI 1.1) race starting on 8 April, followed by the Vuelta a Castilla Leon (UCI 2.1) from 13-15 April and then the Vuelta a Rioja (UCI 1.1) on 22 April.