Today was the first stage of the 2016 Tour de France that saw any significant amount of climbing as riders had to deal with just over 2000m of ascent between Limoges and Le Lioran. While 2000m climbing is not a huge amount by Tour de France standards, the majority of the climbing was squashed into the final 50km of the stage. With the GC favourites not too keen on showing their cards this early in the race, it was the perfect stage for the breakaway.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka knew the importance of being in the break today and so Daniel Teklehaimanot and Serge Pauwels were both very attentive at the stage start. Pauwels eventually made the move of the day with 8 other riders. The peloton let the group go to a 6 minute advantage, before some in-fighting began among the leaders. Van Avermaet, De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Andrey Grivko (Astana) attacked and Pauwels tried to cross over to the trio alone. Pauwels got to within 12 seconds but couldn't close the gap.
As the 3 rode away, the gap to the peloton ballooned up to 15 minutes and it was clear the winner would come from the breakaway. Going over the final 2 categorised climbs of the stage, Van Avermaet showed he was the strongest by going solo, and rode to a good win. Pauwels was hoping to hold off the chasing group of GC favourites and claim a top 10 stage result, but a crash on the penultimate descent of the stage saw our Belgian being caught with 3km to go and eventually finished in 26th position. A brave effort by our African Team rider who will no doubt be looking for more breakaway's later in the race. All of our other African Team riders completed the 216km stage with no real issues.