Nathan Haas © Gallo Images
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka was a big animator in Sunday’s first Ardennes Classics, Amstel Gold Race.
The team was constantly in the heart of the action and at the end, Nathan Haas sprinted to fourth place from a select group of favourites.
The first rider from the team to play his hand was Johann Van Zyl who bridged across to an early breakaway to make sure the team was represented at the front of the race.
The 12-man group quickly gained a good gap on the peloton but as they took on the last 100 km, the gap started to come down.
Van Zyl tried to prolong the break with another attack but with 40 km left to go, it all came back together.
The Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka riders always kept team leader Haas near the front of the pack and when pre-race favourite, Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) attacked, Haas was quick to follow thanks to the good positioning done by his teammates.
A select group of eight riders now formed at the front and even though multiple strong riders tried to join the group, nobody succeeded and the break went away for good.
The front group worked well together but on the final kilometres, it started to split up.
Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) put in a furious attack, which only Gilbert managed to follow.
Haas tried to bridge across later on, but the chase group didn’t let him get away.
In the final sprint, Gilbert got the better of Kwiatkowski, while Haas finished just outside the podium in fourth place after an impressive performance by him and the whole team.
Kristian Sbaragli also showed great legs as he sprinted to 16th place, giving the team two riders in Top20 in the Dutch World Tour one-day race.
“Today, everybody was just awesome. We have had a lot of bad luck in the past few months and the Classics haven’t been what the guys deserved after all their hard work. Today, we really wanted to put a pin in it. We went in to this race with only one goal in mind; to race it with balls. Win or lose.
"Johann [Van Zyl] did a great job in the break, representing, and even when it came back, he still went to the front to pull. There really is a lot of conviction in this team. We all believe in what we are doing and we fight to race for a reason. I can’t thank the guys enough.
"This is a very stressful race but they looked after me all day, eliminating all that stress. I put the pressure on myself because I felt my legs were strong enough to hold it. I haven’t won too many races from a small select group, it’s usually after a reduced group sprint, so this performance really felt like some kind of psychological breakthrough for me. I’m really proud of myself today,” Haas said after the race.