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Gerdemann launches brave solo attack in the queen stage and even though he is joined by Zakarin in the finale, he has enough left in the tank to take a sprint win

Photo: Unipublic/Graham Watson

GAZPROM - RUSVELO

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LINUS GERDEMANN

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NTT PRO CYCLING TEAM

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TOUR D’AZERBAIDJAN

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VITALIY BUTS

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10.05.2014 @ 13:40 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After sitting out last year's season, Linus Gerdemann has returned to his winning ways in today's queen stage of the Tour d'Azerbaidjan when he took his first victory since June 2011. The German launched a brave solo attack and despite being joined by Ilnur Zakarin (Rusvelo), he still had enough left to win the uphill sprint while Zakarin took the race lead.

 

Linus Gerdemann (MTN-Qhubeka) topped his successful comeback to racing by winning the fourth stage of the Tour d'Azerbaidjan. The German won a two-man sprint against Rusvelo's Ilnur Zakarin, with third place going to Vitaly Buts of Kolss.

 

Zakarin may have missed out on the stage win but was able to console himself with taking the overall lead, having come into the day only 10 seconds down. “My team protected me quite well in the first three stages. The idea was for me to jump on this stage and take the lead in GC. Our task is to hold this jersey to the end.”

 

Zakarin has been successful all season, winning the overall title in the GP Sochi and the GP Adgeya.  “Before coming here I didn't expect the wind to be so strong, but I think the organization is good and the roads are good. I am very pleased with this competition.”

 

“We looked at the elevations and the team was selected accordingly. This worked out as my teammates worked quite well and set me up on this stage, as they knew I had a good chance to win on the mountain stage.”

 

Gerdemann and Zakarin had jumped from a lead group on the closing climb of the race's Queen stage. The German suffered a broken spoke with only five km to go, but Zakarin waited for him, and the two continued on to the finish line.

 

“I attacked a bit early, but it worked out,” Gerdemann said. He praised Zakarin, calling him a “very fair sportsman and a very strong rider who deserves the lead.”

 

He had targeted this stage. “I had planned to win this stage, but it is never easy,” he said. “We all expected a fast race and it was a really fast race.  I planned to attack on the first climb and I was already in the first break, so it worked out. I wanted to drop all the GC guys, but one came back to me. He was very strong we could keep the gap. I had a technical problem, and he waited for me, very sporting. He is very strong and I think he deserves the jersey.”

 

The German sat out the last season when he couldn't get a contract anywhere when his contract with RadioShack expired after the 2012 season. His last win was the overall title at the Tour of Luxembourg in 2011.

 

Gerdemann turned pro in 2005 with Team CSC, before joining Team Telekom for three years. He then rode for Milram in 2009-2010, and then for Leopard-Trek/RadioShack.  His career highlight was winning the seventh stage of the 2007 Tour de France and taking over the leader's yellow jersey for one day.

 

The riders were greeted with the usual beautiful weather as they took off from Gabala for the second time, but this time they were facing three ranked climbs, including a long, drawn-out mountaintop finish

 

An early break got away. After only 5 km, Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (MTN-Qhubeka), Josef Cerny (CCC Polsat), Luis Mas (Caja Rural), Sergey Lagkuti (Kolss), Gregoire Tarride (La Pomme Marseille), and Primoz Roglic (Adria Mobil) made their move. The group took the first intermediate sprint at km 10.8, with the points going to Lagkuti ahead of Mas and Roglic.

 

They were then joined by 10 more riders: Linus Gerdemann and Youcef Reguigui (MTN-Qhubeka), Ilnur Zakarin (Rusvelo), Alessio Taliani (Androni Giacattoli), Darren Lapthrope (Drapac), Matt Brammeier (Synergy Baku), Zhandos Bizhigitov (Astana), Vitaly Buts (Kolss), Radoslav Rogina (Adria Mobil), and Alexandr Braico (Tusnad) – a powerful and dangerous group. Reguigui was soon dropped, however.

 

By the second sprint at km. 38.5, the large group had one minute on the field. The sprint went to Buts, Lagkuti, and Zakarin. With 50 km behind them, the gap had grown to three minutes.

 

There were various attacks out of the field, but none stuck until the way up the first climb. Gerdemann, Janse Van Rensburg, Taliani, and Akimov attacked after 55 km. Gerdemann then jumped again and won the first mountain ranking of the day, taking with him a lead of 20 seconds over his chasers and 4 minutes on the peloton.

 

The German maintained his lead at the second climb, a category one. He had 40 seconds over Zakarin and Mas, with the rest of the group a minute back and the field at 4 minutes.

 

As they started up the not-so-steep but long and grinding closing climb, Mas and Zakarin caught Gerdemann, with the Spaniard soon being dropped. It was 1:50 back to a chasing group of 8 and 4:30 to the larger field.

 

The two leaders worked well together and built their lead up. It was 2:25 with 10 km to go.  But with only 5 km to go, Gerdemann suffered a broken spoke, and Zakarin was sporting enough to wait while he got a replacement wheel.

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