South Africa’s Pro Continental cycling team, Team MTN-Qhubeka claimed their second stage win at a Grand Tour with Kristian Sbaragli’s victory in the 146.6km 10th stage of the La Vuelta a Espana in Castellón on Monday.
The 24-year-old’s win was his first ever victory in a European UCI race and the second stage win in two Grand Tours for Team MTN-Qhubeka after Briton Stephen Cummings won the 14th stage of the Tour de France a month-and-a-half ago.
Stage win aside, Team MTN-Qhubeka have been a strong force in La Vuelta since the start of the race on Saturday 22 August. Consistent good results in each stage as well as some stand out performances have once again captured the hearts of their fast-growing fan base and the media.
Team MTN-Qhubeka finished 14th in the Team Time Trial on day one, which was followed by a 14th place by Louis Meintjes on stage two, and a sixth place from Sbaragli on stage three. But arguably the most memorable performance would be the ninth stage when Songezo Jim managed to get into the 14-man breakaway in his first ever Grand Tour appearance. The group built a 5 minute 20 second lead before the big teams embarked on a chase to reel them in. Jim worked hard to stay in the break but eventually sat up to wait for the chase group at the first King of the Mountain.
Meanwhile, in the peloton, Meintjes stayed close to the General Classification (GC) favourites as they closed in on the splintered breakaway. In the final three kilometres Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) put in a strong attack to take the stage win and the overall GC lead, while the 23-year-old South African recorded a 10th place finish just 34 seconds adrift. Meintjes moved up to 12th in the GC.
Meintjes is set to take care of unfinished business at La Vuelta after his Tour de France came to an abrupt end when he suffered a severe upset stomach in the final week. Though a stage win is top of mind for the young mountain climber, a top result in the GC is certainly not out of the question.
While Sbaragli and Team MTN-Qhubeka celebrated their stage victory on stage 10, South African Daryl Impey of the Orica GreenEdge team claimed a top-10 finish with eighth place in the sprint.
As the riders enjoy their first rest day in La Vuelta today, Meintjes is currently 12th in the GC, 2 minutes 25 seconds off the lead.