After yesterday’s solid and promising performance in the team time trial, Team DSM were back in action today for the first mountain top finish of the race atop Jebel Jais. Averaging roughly five and a half percent for 19 kilometres, the wide road and good surface have traditionally seen the finish come down to a reduced sprint from the GC group, but today there was always the chance a rider could escape who is further down the classification due to the time gaps on the opening stages.
Throughout the day the team worked well and stayed together as a cohesive unit in the peloton, looking after finishers Andreas Leknessund and Harm Vanhoucke as they traversed the desert and as the climb approached closer on the horizon. The day’s breakaway put up a valiant effort but were caught halfway up the climb, with Leknessund and Vanhoucke well positioned after some good work by the rest of the team. After a lull in pace, the stage winning move was made by Rubio who launched clear with a teammate, before riding solo and building up a lead of almost one minute over the bunch.
Despite an increase in pace, he held onto an advantage of roughly 35 seconds as they hit the flamme rouge and it was clear from there he would win the stage. Leknessund tried to inject some pace from behind by launching an attack but others were quickly onto him and things slowed once more. Coming around the final straight, Leknessund led things out with Vanhoucke showing a solid turn of speed to take sixth while Leknessund fought to the line for eighth place – making it a solid double top ten on the stage for the team.
The result sees the Team DSM duo move into sixth and seventh positions overall as we head into the second half of the race.