PARIS – Africa’s Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka suffered Tour de France heartbreak on Sunday as stand-out Belgian rider Serge Pauwels was forced to pull out with a fractured elbow.
Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana) won the 15th stage, taking the victory from a three-rider sprint ahead of Ion Izaguirre (Bahrain-Merida) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo).
The stage was another day for the breakaway and Pauwels was keen on being in the mix once again. It was a big fight for the breakthrough and the early attacks kept going for the opening 40 kilometres of the stage before a selection went clear.
Twenty-nine riders made the big move with Pauwels included for the African team. Everyone off the front had the category 1 Pic de Nore climb on their minds as, after the summit, it was a mostly downhill 41km run to the finish.
With a number of fast men in the lead group, Pauwels forced the pace on the early slopes of the climb to distance the likes of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Pauwels’s tough pace was countered by an attack from Rafal Majka which split the group drastically.
Majka was first over the summit, followed by seven chasers. Pauwels was in the third group over the top.
The seven chasers caught Majka on the run to the line and then played a game of cat and mouse to decide the stage. Nielsen, Izaguirre and Mollema snuck away in the final 6km and that was that.
With the stage win done, disaster struck the African team as Pauwels’s group came sprinting home for ninth place.
A touch of wheels in front of climber left him with nowhere to go but crash into the Mitchelton-Scott rider in front of him.
While Pauwels could still finish the stage, unfortunately, the damage was severe as he suffered a broken elbow as a result of the crash and is now out of the Tour de France.
Unfortunately after another good day on the attack, @sergepauwels was taken out in the finale of today's @LeTour stage. Fracturing his right elbow and ending his race.— Team Dimension Data (@TeamDiData) July 22, 2018
Report: https://t.co/uAnxRBIG4U pic.twitter.com/LgrhNOKAo3
Commenting on Pauwels’s injury team doctor Dr Jarrad Van Zuydum said: "Unfortunately Serge had a nasty crash in the finale of today’s stage.
"The crash was of no fault of his own and seemed a very pointless crash as well. He has come down quite hard on his right elbow and fractured the olecranon process of the right elbow.
"It’s actually an injury he has had on the left side before and something that requires surgery to fix.
"We are already making arrangements for him to have surgery in Antwerp and he will be back on the trainer pretty soon after that surgery, but obviously we are all very disappointed about the crash."
African News Agency (ANA)