It’s been very a promising eleven days of racing from Tour virgins MTN-Qhubeka. Daniel Teklehaimanot made history by seizing the polka dot jersey with some smart riding on stage 6 to Le Havre, what he described as “a day I will never forget”. And rightly so.
The Eritrean may have been relieved of the mountains classification lead once the race hit the Pyrenees, but Serge Pauwels promptly stepped up for the African team and nearly pulled it off on the final climb to Cauterets.
The Belgian got himself in the break of the day alongside the likes of newly-crowned German champion Emanuel Buchman, king of the gurning grimpeurs Thomas Voeckler, and eventual stage winner Rafal Majka.
Pauwels was unable to match the acceleration of last year’s King of the Mountains and was eventually overhauled by a bobbing-and-weaving Dan Martin and Buchman to cross the line fourth, but it was a gutsy ride that showed there may be more to come from the 31-year-old before this race is done.
It’s been six years since his last Grand Tour win, a less-than-satisfying retroactively awarded stage 15 of the 2009 Giro following Leonardo Bertagnolli’s doping ban and subsequent stripping of results.
Keep your eyes peeled for another surge from Serge over the next week or so. He’s got the legs. He’s got the brain. He just needs the breaks.