German overcomes mechanical to take victory; Escape companion Zakarin in lead
Foto: Mario Stihl
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. It was the second consecutive stage win for the South African team.
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.”
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.”
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.
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 Lapthorne (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 Akimbo 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.
Download the photo here and here (copyright Mario Stiehl)
Stage 4 results
1. Linus Gerdemann (GER) MTN – Qhubeka
2. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS) RusVelo
3. Vitaliy Buts (UKR) Kolss Cycling Team
1. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS) RusVelo
2. Vitaliy Buts (UKR) Kolss Cycling Team
3. Luis Mas (ESP) Caja Rural