Mandela Day in 2015 marked a historic moment for Dimension Data (or MTN-Qhubeka as they were known then) when Stephen Cummings claimed their first ever Tour de France stage victory. It was the perfect coming together of circumstances, a historic moment for the team on a day so important to their country of origin.
On what would have been Nelson Mandela's 98th birthday, the South African team are looking for their seventh Tour de France stage win on the hilly stage 16 into Berne. The day could be decided either by a breakaway or, if they're lucky, a bunch sprint. Mark Cavendish has been prolific in the sprints for Dimension Data but Edvald Boasson Hagen has also been given the nod to take his own chances on this stage.
"I always target victories and if we can manage to do it on Mandela Day it would be amazing," Boasson Hagen told Cyclingnews in Bourg en Bresse ahead of a daunting stage 15. "It is a big day and of course I would like to try. We will see, but it could also be a sprint day for Mark. It is lumpy and it has been very lumpy these past days so we will have to see how it pans out."
Boasson Hagen has, of course, come close to taking a win already at this year's Tour de France. The softly spoken Norwegian champion finished third on stage 10 into Revel after making it into a breakaway with the world champion Peter Sagan and eventual stage winner Michael Matthews. It was a sign of things coming good for Boasson Hagen after having the worst possible start to the race.
After helping to set up Cavendish for victory on stage 1, he was caught up in the aftermath of Michael Morkov's crash. Boasson Hagen took a serious tumble, landing on his back as he skidded across the road.
"It's ok, it should have been better of course," he said of his race so far. "I still some pain in the back and in the ribs but it's ok. When I get towards the finals I don't feel it. It's just when I'm at the start and walking around but generally when the adrenaline is going it's not too bad, it's just an awareness of pain. It's getting less and less.
"Of course, I would like to have had not crashed but I think that everyone would like that," he laughed. "My own victory would be nice but the team is doing really well and that's great."
Dimension Data has won a third of this year's Tour de France stages with five out of 15 so far. Cavendish has delivered four while Cummings added one to his success of 2015 with a long-range attack on stage 7 to Lac de Payolle. Serge Pauwels came close to securing his own too, after duking it out with fellow Belgian Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) on Mont Ventoux.
"It is really good, it's a nice atmosphere and everybody is really happy. It's been more than what we expected to do so far. I think it's really great," said Boasson Hagen. "It's always nice and I always try to do my best and I always want to help my teammates to win and when Mark is in good shape then it is always nice but I also want to try and win my own stage but when he's sprinting this well it's really nice to help as well."
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