Tour de France #10: Serge Pauwels attacks to 5th place on first mountain stage

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Julian Alaphilippe (Quickstep-Floors) won the first mountain stage of this year’s Tour de France, soloing to victory on today’s stage 10. Ion Izaguirre (Bahrain-Merida) finished in 2nd place and 3rd went to Rein Taaramae (Direct-Energie).

The first mountain stage of the Tour de France was a thriller with no less than 5 categorised climbs included into the relatively short 158km stage. The stage started with a bang, as many riders hoped to try and make the early break, believing it would survive to the finish. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka was of the same opinion and so we had Serge Pauwels and Tom-Jelte Slagter marking the moves.

It was after the category 4 climb at kilometer 19 when the break of the day finally formed. 21 riders went clear and both our African Team climbers had done well to make the selection. The break drove the pace as the peloton, led by Team Sky, settled into a rhythm.

A few riders were dropped from the break after the cat 1 Col de Croix-Fry and out of category Glieres Climb, but Pauwels and Slagter remained up front and went on to start the Col de Romme with still a 6’20” lead over the peloton. It was clear at this point, the break would make it.

Taaramae was first to attack on the Romme, going into the lead with 35km to go. Alaphilippe and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) were first to respond with Pauwels next to set off. Over the top, Alaphilippe had eclipsed the Estonian rider, going into the lead with 15 seconds over Taaramae while Pauwels was 3rd on the road, a further 15 seconds behind.

There was one climb that remained, the Col de la Colmbiere and the Frenchman would only increase his lead on the climb, as no other rider could match his pace on the 7.5km ascent. Izaguirre was able to surpass Pauwels on this final climb and linked up with the Direct-Energie rider ahead. The yellow jersey race leader, Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) was on a great day and was able to catch up to our Belgian climber just before the summit of the climb.

The 14km downhill to the finish-line in Le Gran-Bornand saw no further changes in position out on the road. Alaphillipe went on to take an incredible stage win and also the Polka Dot King of the Mountains Jersey after his stellar ride. For Pauwels, it was 5th on the stage, his 7th career top-10 stage performance at the Tour de France with our African Team.

Serge Pauwels – Rider
It was our plan to have either Tom-Jelte or myself in the break today, in the end we both turned up in the break which really good for us. The break went away on the first climb of the day with 21 riders and they were all really strong guys. Once you make the break that’s the first race of the day done but then it all starts again for the stage, in that select group. It was a really tough stage, I think I did well, I gave everything I had and in the end I think 5th was the place I belonged today. I am pretty happy with that performance.