La Pierre-Saint-Martin - The 10th stage of the Tour de France took riders into the Pyrenees for the first summit finish of this year’s race.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) showed his class to take a convincing win. MTN-Qhubeka put on a good showing too, to have two riders placed in the top 20.
The stage was pretty much a 150km flat run to the foot of the La Pierre-Saint-Martin, a 15.3km HC category climb. There were two lone escapees in the early part of the stage but Team Movistar and FDJ caught them on the final climbs lower slopes.
MTN-Qhubeka were looking forward to the first climbing day as their young African climbers could stretch their legs for the first time.
The experienced Serge Pauwels brought the team into a good position to start the climb as Movistar then set a violent pace from the foot of the climb.
In no time at all the peloton was down to less than 40 riders with Pauwels, Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Louis Meintjes all still part of the front group.
Riders continued to drop one by one as the climb started to bear its teeth. With 10km to go there were only 25 odd riders left, with a number of favourites out.
MTN-Qhubeka's three climbers remained in the front group but it was Team Sky though that took control and the race subsequently blew to pieces.
Pauwels held on to the front group right up to about 7km to go, where soon after Froome made his race winning attack.
MTN-Qhubeka's Belgian rider then went on to cross the line 14th while their South African champion Janse van Rensburg, rode an intelligent race, pacing himself well to finish in 18th place. Meintjes came in a few spots back in 24th, to place MTN-Qhubeka in fifth place in the team stage classification.
"My initial goal was to be in the long breakaway but after trying in those first few kilometres I felt I had good legs after the rest day. In the final I was surprised that I was able to follow the best for such a long time.
" I didn’t want to get in the way of the real GC guys so at first I gave them some space but then I saw Nibali got dropped and I still had good legs. I just kept riding within my own limits. This is a great result for me. I am happy to have been given so much confidence by the team," Pauwels said.