Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) won stage 16 of the Tour de France by lunging across the line, just centimeters ahead of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). Sondre Holst Enger (IAM Cycling) was 3rd in the select group sprint finish.
It was a special day at the Tour de France for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka with the 18th of July being known as Mandela Day in South Africa. Last year Steve Cummings gave our African Team and our continent a day to savour by winning on our former president’s birthday. Today our boys lined up with the hope of repeating that feat.
The 209km from Moirans-en-Motagne to Berne was a difficult stage to predict, it wasn't flat but the sprinters still felt they could deal with the undulations of the day. The main concerns were centered around the technical final 5km, that included a short sharp cobbled climb with 2km to go. The run into the the final also included a roller coaster road with some tight corners and so only one thing was certain, it would be a strong man who won today.
The early action saw teammates Tony Martin and Julien Alaphillipe attack the peloton inside of the first 10km. Everybody knew the strength of Martin, a 3-time world time trial champion, and so a number of teams started chasing immediately. Martin, who basically towed Alaphillipe along all day, kept the pressure on and this made for one of the fastest and toughest days of the race. With 60km to go, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka started to put its plan into action when Cummings went to the head of the peloton in order to chase down the 2 leaders.
Despite the strength of the 2 up front, and thanks in large to the power of Cummings, the break was caught on the roller coaster road at 15km to go. As our African Team were riding for Edvald Boasson Hagen in the final, Cummings kept the high pace going until 5km to go. Bernhard Eisel did a great job in keeping our Norwegian out of the wind, delivering him to the foot of the cobbled climb in a good position.
An attack by a LottoNL-Jumbo rider was then quickly nullified by Reinardt Janse van Rensburg on the cobbled climb. The peloton had shattered on the bumpy uphill though and Boasson Hagen found himself on the prized wheel of the world champ, Peter Sagan, with 1km to go. The sprint started and our Norwegian did his best to follow the wheel of Sagan but it had been a difficult day and the World Champion is a champion for a reason. A few riders were able to come around Boasson Hagen before the line and it would be 9th place for our strongman on the day.
It was always going to be difficult to emulate last year's Mandela Day success but the teamwork shown once again gave our African Team every reason to be proud of our result today.
Rolf Aldag - Head of Performance
It was a complicated final and it wasn't really obvious what was going to happen. Nobody was sure if it was going to be a massive sprint or a select group after the final. We tried to our best and do a sprint for final. Obviously we were hoping for better but it was a difficult sprint and hard to predict.