Bazhkou finished in top-3 at Tour of Gabon opener
The start of the international stage race La Tropicale Amissa Bongo was successful for the Minsk Cycling Club Continental team: Stanislau Bazhkou finished in top-3 of the first stage.
It is the first participation of the Belarusian team in UCI Africa Tour events. And the La Tropicale Amissa Bongo, also known as the Tour of Gabon, is the biggest road race in Africa.
Every year the best African national teams as well as strong European cycling teams come to Gabon. The 12th edition of the Tour of Gabon has also big names such as 2 French Professional continental teams Direct Energie and Delko Marseille Provence KTM.
Both French teams were main rivals of Minsk during 150 km of the hilly first stage. A few early attacks caught by the peloton demonstrated that no European rider would be allowed to break away. After 50 km the group decided to let in the break two riders from Eritrea and Ethiopia.
The European teams were controlling the race and each other.
One of the breakaway riders rejoined the peloton after the last KOM. But the Eritrean athlete persisted increasing the gap to more than 3 minutes. The leaders reacted by a chasing group, where Minsk was represented by Yauheni Sobal.
Numerous attacks followed from the peloton after the breakaway was caught with 15 km to go. But Klimiankou, Golovash, Sobal and Vorganov controlled the situation.
In the 3 last km all the Minsk riders moved to the head of the peloton and worked together to ensure leading positions for Bazhkou and Papok.
Bazhkou finished third in the bunch sprint after Mikel Aristi (Delko Marseille) and Toni Hurel (Direct Energie) claiming the first Minsk podium in 2017.
Papok was 8th, Vorganov – 13th (0:00), Klimiankou – 24th (0:06), Sobal – 59th (1:36), Golovash – 60th (1:36).
After Stage 1 Bazhkou is 3rd in the GC with a gap of 7 seconds.
In the team classification Minsk Cycling Club is also placed third.