17 September 2013
Team MTN-Qhubeka star Gerald Ciolek turned around a tough day for the South African road cycling outfit in the Tour of Britain by racing to victory in stage two of the race on Monday.
Africa’s first Professional Continental team lost both Andreas Stauff and Ferekalsi Debesay to crashes and the day was looking bleak until Ciolek survived the tough Honister Pass halfway through the stage to set himself up to challenge for the win in the end.
Ciolek caught Thomas Lovkist (IAM Cycling) in the final 500 metres and then passed Sam Bennett (An Post-Chain Reaction) as the line approached to take the honours.
The victory and his uphill kick to the finish also earned him the yellow jersey.
Sergio Pardilla added to the team’s joy when he finished inside the top 10 of the stage, to move up to fifth on the general classification.
“It was a strange day for us, losing two riders and then winning, but that’s the sport. You can win and lose on the same day,” Ciolek said at the finish.
“Honister Pass was a really hard climb, but I just stayed calm and made sure I was with riders like Cavendish and Petacchi because I knew they would bring it back.
‘I was feeling good’
“I was feeling good, so I wasn’t too worried because the front group was just ahead of us the whole time.
“Coming into the finish there was a sharp right turn. I got a bit of a gap from the first riders within the last kilometre then chased Sam Bennett and he gave me a really hard time to catch him. I caught him and went on his wheel with 150 metres to go and was quite confident from then.”
Looking at the bigger picture, Ciolek added: “This season started off pretty well for the team. We went to all the races with goals and didn’t do well in all the races and that’s normal, but I am very happy with how the year has gone for me and for the team. We’ve been very successful.
“Now, with the race being broadcasted on SuperSport in Africa, it’s fantastic for the supporters in the team’s home country to see us race and win,” the German star concluded.
The early stage was dominated by a seven-rider group: Mike Northey (Node 4 Giordana Racing), Jonathan Dibben (GB), Nicola Boem (Bardiani Valvole CSF Inox), Sean Downey (AN Post Chain Reaction), Matt Cronshaw (IG Sigma Sport), Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun) and Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Movistar).
While they were building their lead in terrible weather conditions, news filtered through of Stauff abandoning after he had nowhere to go when a rider crashed in front of him. He injured his knee and elbow but didn’t suspect any breaks. Moments later Debesay crashed out with a suspected broken collarbone.
The sombre mood of the team was changed at the end when Ciolek emphatically won the stage.
‘A crazy day’
“This was just a crazy day,” sports director Jens Zemke said afterwards. “It’s a really impressive victory for Gerald.
“The day wasn’t going so well when Andy crashed then Ferekalsi too. I tried to put him back on the bike, but he was not so good and couldn’t move his arm.
“The plan was to get Gerald to the front with as many riders and in the end Sergio was there with him and he climbed really well because he’s fifth on GC (general classification) now too.”
Tuesday’s stage is a 16.1 kilometre time trial in Knowsley. Race leader Ciolek will be the last rider to leave the start house.