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Having joined a 10-rider break that escaped in the finale, Jelloul beat Areruya and Mraouni in the uphill sprint on stage 4 of Tropicale Amissa Bongo; Palini defended the overall lead but lost part of his advantage




21.01.2016 @ 19:34 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After three stage wins for the European, an African rider finally managed to win a stage in the continent’s biggest race when Adil Jelloul took the third stage win for Skydive Dubai on the fourth day of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo. The Moroccan made it into a 10-rider group that escaped inside the final 10km and managed to beat Joseph Areruya (Rwanda) and Salah Eddine Mraouni (Morocco) in the uphill sprint. His teammate Andrea Palini defended his overall lead.


With two stage wins for Andrea Palini, Skydive Dubai have had a highly successful Tropicale Amissa Bongo. However, until now their best results have been achieved by their European stars but that was changed in today’s fourth stage of Africa’s biggest race.


Palini was ready to test himself in the uphill sprint that was the expected conclusion to the fourth day of the race but the Arab team decided to play more cards. They allowed Morocaan Adil Jelloul to join the attacks and when 10 riders surged clear, he was part of the move. In the end, he managed to beat his 9 companions in the sprint and secure the biggest win of his career.


 "This is the best win of my career,” he said after the race. “The Tropicale Amissa Bongo is the biggest stage race in Africa and I have often dreamed of winning a stage here.”


After yesterday’s tough stage, things were expected to be slightly easier in stage 4 which brought the riders over 141.4km from Oyem to Ambam in the neighbouring country of Cameroun. The terrain was lumpy all day but there were no major climbs. There were just 3 KOM sprints along the way and the final of those challenges came just 9.4km from the finish. From there it was mainly flat until the riders got to the final 500m that averaged around 5%.


Like in the previous stages, it was aggressive racing right from the start when the riders took off under the very hot sun in Gabon. In the opening phase, Temesgen Buru (Ethiopia) managed to move into the KOM lead by beating Yonathan Hailu (Eritrea) and Camera Hakuzimana (Rwanda) in the first KOM sprint.


The initial attacking allowed a four-rider break to be formed and Antonio Piedra (Funvic), Patrick Byukusenge (Rwanda), Abdelati Saadoune and Mohamed Amine Er-Rafai both (Morocco) managed to build an advantage of 2.20 at the 20km mark. The quartet worked well together while they also contested the intermediate sprints. Saadoune beat Er-Rafai and Byukusenge in the first of those and was faster than Piedra and Er-Rafai at the second one 69.4km from the start.


When Saadoune beat Buykusenge and Er-Rafai in the final sprint with around 60km to go, the escapees had extended their advantage to 3.50 but now the chase was starting to get organized. The gap was coming down when Byukusenge led Saadoune and Piedra over the top of the second KOM climb with 45km to go and it had been reduced to 1.30 when they crossed the border and entered Cameroun soil with 25km to go.


As the peloton accelerated, the break split up and it was Byukusenge and Er-Rafai who dropped their companions. They crested the summit of the final climb with 9.4km to go in that order while Buru strengthened his KOM lead by being third across the line.


Ultimately, it was all in vain though and the break was brought back. However, new attacks were launched in the undulating finale and 10 riders managed to get clear. Jelloul was part of the move and was joined by Anthony Delaplace (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Alexandre Pichot (Direct Energie=, Joseph Areruya (Rwanda), Salaheddine Mraouni (Morocco), Magno Nazaret (Funvic), Joschka Beck (Stradalli) and the Eritrean trop of Elyas Afewerki, Aron Debretsion and Tesfom Okubariam.


The break managed to stay clear and decided the race in an uphill sprint where Jelloul beat Areruya, Mraouni and Delaplace, with a 3-seconds split occurring behind the Frenchman. Getachew Atsbeha (Ethiopia), Benoit Jarrier (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and yesterday’s winner Adrien Petit (Direct Energie) led the peloton across the line with a 13-second time loss.


Race leader Andrea Palini crossed the line just behind Petit and so defended his overall lead. However, he was fortunate that Okubamariam had to settle for fifth as the Eritrean now moves in to second in the overall standings, just 6 seconds off the lead. Petit is 10 seconds behind in third.


Things should be harder in tomorrow’s fifth stage which has a similar lumpy profile as today’s stage. However, there will be categorized climbs with 14.3km and 2.4km to go before the riders descend to the finish, meaning that the finish should suit the strong sprinters and puncheurs.



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