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Palini gave Skydive Dubai the perfect start to Tropicale Amissa Bongo by beating Hutarovich and Petit in a bunch sprint; the Italian also took the overall lead

ADRIEN PETIT

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ANDREA PALINI

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LA TROPICALE AMISSA BONGO ONDIMBA

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YAUHENI HUTAROVICH

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18.01.2016 @ 16:50 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Andrea Palini gave Skydive Dubai the perfect start to Africa’s biggest bike race as he turned out to be the fastest in the bunch sprint on stage 1. The Italian beat Yauheni Hutarovich (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Adrien Petit (Direct Energie) into the minor podium positions.

 

Last year Skydive Dubai took one of their biggest wins of the season at the Tropicale Amissa Bongo, Africa’s biggest bike race, with Rafaa Chtioui taking both a stage and the overall victory. This year they are without the defending champion but with Francisco Mancebo and in-form sprinter Andrea Palini, they are still highly ambitious.

 

Today they got the race off to the best possible start as Palini turned out to be the fastest in the bunch sprint on the opening stage. Arriving in Gabon on the back of a points classification win in the Tour of Al Zubarah and two stage wins in the Jelajah Malaysia, the Italian confirmed that he is in great form and will be the man to beat in the sprints in Africa.

 

The race kicked off with a 146km stage that brought the riders from Kango to Lambaréné and was mostly flat. However, the riders faced one early KOM sprint and another two in the finale. The final of those was located just 1.6km from the downhill finish, meaning that the sprinters faced a tough challenge if they wanted to stay in contention.

 

The many local teams were keen to ride aggressively and so the race got off to a fast start. The attacking continued until Joseph Areuya (Rwanda) escaped in a solo move.

 

The Rwandan stayed in front while the main teams started to control things in the peloton. He won the first intermediate sprint ahead of Elias Afewerki (Eritrea) and Benoit Jarrier (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) while Aron Debretsion (Eritrea) and Jean Bosco Nsengimana (Stradalli) were first from the peloton in the first KOM sprint. Salifou Yarbanga (Burkina Faso) and Essaid Abelouache (Morocco) took the minor positions in the second KOM sprint.

 

As the peloton approached the finish, the attacking started again and the trio of Abdelati Saadoune (Morocco), Weldearegay Zeray (Ethiopia) and Yonathan Haile (Eritrea) bridged the gap to Areyua. The quartet were still ahead with 35km to go but quickly left Saadoune behind.

 

The remaining trio had an advantage of 40 seconds as they entered the final 25km but it was impossible to keep the peloton at bay. They were caught with 10km to go and from there the scene was set for a bunch sprint.

 

The final climb failed to make a difference and when the fast riders battled for the win, it was Palini who came out on top, holding off Yauheni Hutarovich and Adrien Petit who was in his first race for Direct Energie. Yohann Gene (Direct Energie) and Armindo Fonseca (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) completed the top 5.

 

With the win, Palini takes the first leader’s jersey with a 4-second advantage over Hutarovich. He will try to defend his position in stage 2 which is completely flat and doesn’t include any categorized climbs.

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