Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka celebrated a huge win on stage 11 of Giro d’Italia as Spain’s Omar Fraile finished off a masterful performance by crossing the line first in Bagno di Romagna.
In Scandinavia, the Tour of Norway could not have had a better start for Dimension Data as Edvald Boasson Hagen, the team’s Norwegian champion, won the opening stage on his birthday. Boasson Hagen beat Tosh van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-Scott) in the sprint for the line.
Back to Italy though, and with its four categorised climbs and a short distance of 161 kilometres, many riders had red-circled the day’s stage as good for a breakaway to make it all the way. The Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka riders had saved their legs during Tuesday’s time trial in order to be ready for Wednesday’s stage, and they didn’t disappoint.
After multiple attacks, a big group of over 20 riders finally achieved a gap on the peloton. Dimension Data had been very attentive and managed to get both Igor Antón and Fraile in the group. Fraile had had his eyes on Wednesday’s stage for a long time and when Mikel Landa (Team Sky) attacked from the breakaway, the strong climber followed his fellow countryman without hesitation.
The Basque duo quickly created a gap on the chasers and managed to keep it for a long time. However, as the group behind them upped the pace, the gap began to decrease, and with 40km left to go, Fraile and Landa were caught.
Other riders then started attacking on the slopes towards the top of the final climb of the day, and a stage win for Fraile seemed out of reach. Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) distanced the rest and went solo, but suddenly Fraile appeared in the picture again, sprinting to close the gap and take the maximum KOM points.
Fraile and Rolland worked well together on the descent and kept the chase group at 15-20 seconds as they took on the last 20km.
On the final kilometers, pre-stage favorite Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) joined the front duo together with a few other riders. Knowing Rui Costa is a very fast rider, Fraile was smart to get on the wheel of the strong Portuguese.
With 350m to go, Fraile accelerated, and even though Costa tried to follow, he stood no chance against Fraile who finished off his masterpiece of a stage with the biggest win of his career.
By taking maximum points on three KOMs, Fraile, king of the mountains in the last two editions of Vuelta a España, also drew level with Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates) in the maglia azzura classification.
During this Giro d’Italia, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka races to fund 100 girls in Africa on bikes, as part of the Bicycles Change Lives campaign. Before the race started in Sardinia, all the riders received a customised undervest with the names of the special women in their lives. Fraile’s vest has the name of his girlfriend, Eva, written on it and the 26-year-old Spaniard was very eager to dedicate a stage to his girlfriend.
The opening stage of the Tour of Norway took riders on a 170km trip from Honefoss to Asker. There were numerous undulations throughout the stage, with a final drag all the way to the line finish as well. The stage suited Boasson Hagenn to a tee, and most of the rival teams were looking to the African team to make the decisive moves.With only three riders going up the road, it made things slightly easier for Data Dimension to control, who worked together with a few other World Tour teams to ensure that the leaders were brought back before reaching the finishing circuit in Asker. ‘The attacks came thick and fast over the final 25km and we kept it together as best we could before young Ben O’Connor had a go in the final 10km.’
With O’Connor up the road, Boasson Hagen could sit back and let the other teams chase, which they did. O’Connor’s move was brought back just before the line, and then Boasson Hagen did the rest by sprinting to a special win.
With the stage victory, Boasson Hagen also pulled on the overall race leaders jersey as well.