Jan Hirt and Felix Grossschartner confirmed their climbing talent taking 3rd and 4th respectively on stage 5 of Tour of Croatia, which featured mountain top finish.
Info: April 22st, stage 5, Porec – Ucka (Vojak), 141km
Course: mountainous, climb Vojak (cat. HC) tackled twice, from two different sides – the second one to the finish (16km long, avg. 6,5%)
The climb was quite similar to stage 2 – it was long, but steady. Maybe it was little bit harder, but still not steep enough for my characteristics. I was waiting for the good moment to attack, because I knew my chances in the sprint are slim. Unfortunately that good moment never came, but I’m happy with my sensations and form.
It was another great team performance by our squad. Łukasz Owsian represented us in the breakaway, so we didn’t have to pull in the peloton. Other teammates made sure, that me, Michal and Felix are well positioned and well protected. Tomorrow’s stage will be very nervous, with tricky finale, so positioning and maintaining concentration will be crucial. We can’t afford to make any mistakes.
It wasn’t easy to race after we heard the news about Michele Scarponi. We saw each other basically every day in Sierra Nevada, during our training camp, few weeks ago. He was there with his Astana team and we talked a lot. We also did a small table tennis tournament. It is such a sad loss to the cycling world, but it’s even more tragic to his family and closes friends. He was a great man and it’s hard to believe that he’s no longer with us.
The stage was preceded with a minute of silence to honor Michele Scarponi, an Italian rider who died during training ride, after colliding with a van.
Łukasz Owsian set the ground for his highest placed teammates, be getting into the breakaway of the day. He went clear alongside Artem Nych (Gazprom-RusVelo), Daniel Turek (Isreal Cycling Academy), Guillermo Luis Bonet Mas (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA), Kazushige Kuboki (Nippo – Vini Fantini), Andres Daniel Velez Rozo (Bicicletas Strongman) and Antonio Parrinello (GM Europa Ovini).
Peloton led by Bahrain-Merida kept the gap at a reachable level, as the maximum advantage of the day was as big as 2 minutes.
On the first climb to Vojak, the breakaway broke in pieces, but Owsian managed to stay with the strongest. He crested the top in 2nd place, just behind Mas, and before Parrinello. The trio emerged in the front and descended together.
Owsian’s group got caught at the bottom of the final climb, with 14km to go. Afterwards few attacks were being launched, but nobody was able to gain too much ground. One of the attackers was Branislau Samoilau.
With 3km to go the main group still consisted of 30 riders, but next acceleration reduced the pack drastically. Three strongest riders of the race got away – Jan Hirt, GC leader Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) and Jaime Roson (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA). Felix Grossschartner and Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates) were keeping their own pace behind them, trying to bridge the gap.
Eventually it came down to an uphill sprint with Hirt, Roson and Nibali. Spaniard was the first at the line, beating Nibali and Hirt finished 3rd. Grossschartner just missed out on the podium and Polanc took 5th. Top 5 of the stage overlaps top 5 in the GC.
Michal Schlegel was 8th on the stage, took over the lead in the youth classification, moved to 7th overall and helped the team keep the lead in the team classification. Young Czech will defend the jersey on tomorrow’s tricky stage to Zagreb.