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"On the 2nd KOM i followed some attacks from Belkin & Katusha riders and over the top it split badly with the gutters. We were maybe 10 riders with a small gap but it all came back together for the last KOM."





15.08.2014 @ 00:37 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

MTN-Qhubeka put their development of African talents on show in today's first stage of the Arctic Race of Norway. South African Johann Van Zyl got a rare chance to ride as team leader and took a fine 21st place in the hard stage.


The opening stage of the Arctic Race of Norway saw the Norwegian Lars Peter Nordhaug (Belkin) attack multiple times over the final 5km’s to solo his way to victory. David Villella (Cannondale) and Steven Kruijswijk (Belkin) sprinted it out for 2nd and 3rd respectively some 6 seconds behind Nordhaug. Johann van Zyl took responsibility for Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung and finished in 21st place.


The long 204km stage saw an early break of 6 riders get close on a 7  minute gap but the catch was inevitable, especially with such a testing final 30km’s. The racing really lit up on the penultimate climb of the day as Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling) put in a big attack and rode clear of the field. The chase behind came from Belkin and this pace seemed to drop a number of riders from the peloton. Going over the top of the climb Brandle had 20″ on a reduced peloton that still contained Johann van Zyl, Nicolas Dougall and Martin Wesemann from Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung.


As the riders descended toward the final climb of the day, Wesemann then took it upon himself to set the pace in the peloton. On the lower slopes of the climb, a number of attacks went of the front which resulted in Brandle being caught. After a great job by Wesemann and Dougall, it was up to Van Zyl to now fend for himself. Nordhaug put in a killer punch that really split the race to pieces. It was every man for himself and Van Zyl fought valiantly over the top of the climb with the front group, and then in the crosswinds of the final 5km’s before the last rise to the line. In the end, the young South African finished just 37″ down on Nordhaug.


"It was actually a really nice day and we were lucky with the weather," Van Zyl said. "No rain and only some wind in the final. The break went with the first attack basically and we weren’t interested so that was awesome.


"They got up to 8 min I think while Belkin controlled. We went through a 7km tunnel, 3,5 downhill and then the first KOM 3,5 up. That was really scary and quite dark inside and I hit 92kmh.


"Then it just got harder and harder with side winds. Songezo [Jim], Nic and Martin Wesemann did an awesome job keeping me at the front and out the wind. It was the first time I was in that position and I cant believe how much it helped.


"On the 2nd KOM i followed some attacks from Belkin & Katusha riders and over the top it split badly with the gutters. We were maybe 10 riders with a small gap but it all came back together for the last KOM. Over the top I was in the small 2nd group and from there it was just max to the line."



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