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Reguigui takes his first professional victory by beating Mugerli and Haugaard in a bunch sprint while Clarke defends the lead on the eve of the queen stage

Photo: Team MTN-Qhubeka

DRAPAC PORSCHE CYCLING

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KRISTIAN HAUGAARD

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MATEJ MUGERLI

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NTT PRO CYCLING TEAM

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TOUR D’AZERBAIDJAN

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WILLIAM CLARKE

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YOUCEF REGUIGUI

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09.05.2014 @ 14:45 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Two years since winning the race overall, Youcef Reguigui (MTN-Qhubeka) proved that the Tour d'Azerbaidjan is a happy hunting ground for the young Algerian when he took his first win as a professional in todya's third stage of the race. On a day tailor-made for the sprinters, he emered as the fastest in the bunch kick while William Clarke (Drapac) defended his overall lead.

 

Youcef Reguigui of MTN-Qhubeka won the bunch sprint of the third stage of the Tour d'Azerbaidjan. The Algerian pulled away with some 50 meters to go to win by two bike lengths ahead of Matte Mugerli (Adria Mobil) and Kristian Haugaard Jensen (Giant Shimano).

 

Will Clarke (Drapac) finished in the pack to easily maintain his overall lead.

 

It was the 24-year-old's first win for the South African team, which he joined in 2013, an in fact his first win as a pro. He won the forerunner of this race, the Heydar Aliyev Anniversary Tour, as an amateur in 2012.

 

“It is my second time in Azerbaijan, the first time was in 2012 when I won this tour. Today I had good legs and I won the stage I thank my MTN sport director and all the team. I am happy because this is my first victory as a pro. Today was hard as I had bad legs at the beginning of race, but in the last 60 kms of race I talked to Linus Gerdemann and said I was doing better, perhaps I could win the stage."

 

Reguigui would be happy to come back to Azerbaijan, to continue his streak of wins here. “If you win one time in a country, then you want to race more in this country.”

 

“The stage today was hard, it was all up and down,” Reguigui said. “I knew this road from 2012. Linus Gerdemann stayed with me to the last kilometer. Everyone was going all out. With 300 meters I started to sprint. This is good for my team and for me as well.”

 

“I came here this year to win the yellow jersey, but conditions were not the best. I just did the Tour of Turkey and I was very tired.”

 

And tomorrow? “It is maybe a little bit too hard for me.”

 

Clark was satisfied with the day. “It was quite good actually. The plan was to let a small break go. Finally the three man break went and we knew the best rider was at about 11 minutes so there was no need for us to pull. We left the gap at about 4-5 minutes. In the last 50-60 kms the other teams started helping pulling.”

 

The Australian was happy to have retained his jersey today, but knows that the next stage will be more difficult. “Tomorrow will be a day of fighting for me, I am not really a climber. If I've got good legs I hope to stay near the front. Anything can happen. If I have a good day I think I can hold on to the jersey again.”

 

The race started in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd, under the usual blue skies, and refreshingly, only a light breeze. It was to be 180 kilometers, on a there-and-back course, with start and finish in Gabala. Things got off to a fast start, with the bunch galloping along at 60 km/h.

 

The high speed helped to keep things together for a long time. Despite numerous attempts,it wasn't until km 30 that three riders were able to get away. Adrian Honkisz (CCC Polsat), Ivan Stevic (Tusnad) and Thomas Vaubourziek (La Pomme Marseille) quickly built up lead of up to 5:30.

 

This was another chance for a bunch sprint, though, and Drapac, Baku and Androni Giacattoli finally moved to the front to the lead the chase.

 

A crash in the latter part of the stage saw Dennis Van Niekerk (MTN-Qhubeka) transported to hospital.

 

The chase was fast enough to bring the gap down to only 1:45 with 10km to go, and it kept going down. Finally, within sight of the last kilometer marker, the three escapees were finally caught, and the bunch sprint set up. Reguigui relied on teammates Linus Gerdemann and Johann Van Zyl to set him up before he jumped with about 50 meters to go and made good on the sprint win.

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