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Having made it into a 3-rider breakaway, van Zyl attacked his companions with less than 3km to go and managed to hold off the peloton by 5 seconds to take his first pro victory; Hirt defended the lead

Photo: Mario Stiehl

ANGEL VICIOSO

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DAVID TANNER

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JOHANN VAN ZYL

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TOUR OF AUSTRIA 

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09.07.2015 @ 15:30 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Johann van Zyl (MTN-Qhubeka) confirmed his huge potential when he took a breakthrough first professional victory with a successful solo ride in stage 5 of the Tour of Austria. The South African dropped his two breakaway companions with less than 3km to go and held off the peloton by 5 seconds, with David Tanner (IAM) winning the sprint for second. Jan Hirt (CCC) defended his lead on the queen stage.

 

MTN-Qhubeka aim to develop young African riders into future stars and several of their riders have shown lots of progress. Johann van Zyl has not got the same kind of attention as the likes of Louis Meintjes and Merhawi Kudus but the South African has gradually got stronger and stronger.

 

Today he fully confirmed his potential when he took a surprise win in stage 5 of the Tour of Austria. Being a strong time triallist, he used his great roleur skills to hold off the peloton at the end of a very fast and hard race.

 

The stage always looked like a good opportunity for a breakaway as a short ramp to the finish made it too hard for the pure sprinters. That set the scene for a brutal start to the stage and it took more than 80km for a break to get formed.

 

They only managed to get an advantage of 4 minutes before IAM and BMC brought it back surprisingly early. This opened the door for new attacks and this is where van Zyl made his move.

 

Van Zyl was joined by Grischa Janorschke (Vorarlberg) and Lukas Pöstlberger (Tirol) in a three-rider break that was not deemed dangerous by the peloton. However, the escapees got an important chance to tale a breather when a big crash forced the commissaires to briefly neutralize the race and this is probably what made the difference.

 

The front trio dug deep and only slowly lost time. With 10km to go their advantage was 1.40, with 5km to go it was 1.10 and with 3km to go it was 40 seconds.

 

Van Zyl used the rising roads to make an attack and he quickly distanced his companions who were both caught. He went into TT mode and in a dramatic finale he held off his chasers by just 5 seconds. Stage 2 winner David Tanner beat Angel Vicioso (Katusha) in the sprint for second.

 

Jan Hirt finished safely in the bunch and so defended his 2-second lead over Ben Hermans (BMC). He faces his toughest test tomorrow when the riders tackle the queen stage which is simply brutal. After an early category 2 climb, the riders will go up the big Grossglockner climb before they descend to a mainly flat second part. However, the stage has a nasty sting in its tail as it ends with the traditional GC climb to Kitzbüheler Horn which is known as one of the steepest climbs in Europe.

 

A tricky stage

After yesterday’s first mountain stage, it was back into flatter terrain for stage 5 which brought the riders over 175km from Faaker See/Drobollach to Matrei in Osttirol. The first half only included a small category 4 climb but the second half was one gradual uphill drag that got steeper and steeper before it ended with a short ramp to the finish.

 

It was a beautiful sunny day when the riders rolled out on their neutral ride. Everybody knew that this could be a day for a breakaway and so it was no surprise that many wanted to go on the attack and it took  a long time for the break to be formed.

 

More points for Tratnik

At the first sprint after 27km of racing, the peloton was still together and this allowed sprint leader Jan Tratnik (Amplatz) to attack to take maximum points. However, his break was unsuccessful and the attacking continued.

 

At the bottom of the category 4 climb at the 45km mark, the peloton was still together and it was Stefan Praxmarer (Tirol) who led them over the top. With a tailwind, the racing was extremely fast and the attacking continued as they got back on flat roads.

 

A first breakaway

At the second intermediate sprint after 73km of racing, a small group had gone clear and it was Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) who was first across the line. However, they were brought back too.

 

The elastic finally snapped when Remy Di Gregorio, Yoann Paillot (Marseille), Adrien Petit (Cofidis), Mirko Selvaggi (Wanty), Quentin Jauregui (Ag2r) and Clement Koretzky (Vorarlberg) escaped after 85km of racing. The peloton decided to take a breather after the hectic start and the gap had gone out to four minutes at the 95km mark.

 

Van Zyl takes off

CCC quickly hit the front and had brought the gap down to 3 minutes after 111km of racing. As BMC and IAM started to chase and Peter Velits took some huge turns, it came down quickly and at the 115km mark, the escapees already sat up to wait for the peloton.

 

This opened for new attacks and it was van Zyl, Grischa Janorschke (Vorarlberg) and Lukas Pöstlberger (Tirol) who escaped. They quickly got an advantage of 1.25 before Pöstlberger won the final intermediate sprint.

 

The race is neutralized

A big crash in the peloton forced the commissaires to neutralize the race for 5 minutes and the racing was resumed at the 155km mark when the escapees had an advantage of 2.10. Cannondale and IAM started to chase immediately but the escapees proved to be hard to catch.

 

With 7km to go, the front trio still had an advantage of 1.40 and with 5km to go, it was still 1.10. 2km later they had 40 seconds over the rapidly approaching peloton and all was set for an exciting finale.

 

Van Zyl sensed that he was the strongest and decided to make a solo attack. The South African dug deep and managed to hold off the peloton by just 5 seconds to take the win.

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