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Hirt on the podium of Tour of Croatia, Schlegel with white jersey, “orange squad” the strongest team

Jan Hirt finished Tour of Croatia on the podium of general classification and Felix Grossschartner was ranked just one spot behind him. Michal Schlegel won the youth classification and the entire squad claimed the victory in the team classification.

Info: April 23rd, stage 6,  Samobor  –  Zagreb, 147km

Course: flat and tricky, twisty, cobblestone two laps in the finale

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The finale of the stage was very hard, with the punchy hills and cobbles, but our team did an amazing job and we can by happy with the outcome. First it was Branislau who slipped into the breakaway, taking pressure off of us to chase. Thanks to him we could go easy in the bunch. The rest of the teammates helped us keep good positions, at the front of the peloton and save energy for the decisive laps in Zagreb – Jan Hirt said afterwards.

In the end, on the circuit I was just following Felix, who likes courses like this. He was 2nd on that stage 2 years ago, so he knew it quite well. I surprised myself that I was able to finish in 10th, since I’m not a classic rider like Felix and it’s definitely a good indication of my increasing form.

Tour of Croatia was first race after our high altitude training camp in Sierra Nevada. I hadn’t known how my body will react, so I’m glad that we passed the test and with few weeks left to Giro d’Italia the entire team showed strength and good preparation.

I’m also happy for Felix, who finished 6th on the stage and 4th overall, for Michal, who won the youth classification and for the entire team, that we won the team classification. It was definitely a good race for us.

The gaps before the stage, at the top of the general classification were slim, so every second counted. For that reason, 2nd in GC Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) was very aggressive right from the start, taking first intermediate sprint of the day, which was located with just 4 kilometers into the sage. He gained 3 bonus seconds and took over the virtual lead.

After around 40km of racing a 15-man breakaway was established. Branislau Samoilau, who remained very active throughout the entire race, was part of that move and was the highest placed escapee in the general classification. At some point, when the gap exceeded 2 minutes, he even became the virtual leader of the race.

With 19km to go the breakaway split and Samoilau was one of the riders who fell behind. Eventually he was brought back in with 12km to go, on the tricky lap in Zagreb. High pace in the bunch reduced the group drastically on the narrow streets and prevented anyone from launching a successful late attack.

CCC Sprandi Polkowice riders were very well positioned on the circuit and made sure to stay at the head of the shattered peloton. Felix Grossschartner was one of the strongest in the punchy sprint, as he finished 6th at the line. Even though Jan Hirt is a typical climber and such fast finale doesn’t suit him, he was able to take 10th place. They both kept their GC spots – Hirt completed the 6-day event on the podium, in 3rd and Grossschartner in 4th.

Michal Schlegel defended his youth classification lead (also 7th place overall) and took home the white jersey. It’s one of two victories the “orange squad” claimed at the race, as they also won team classification.

Vincenzo Nibali triumphed the entire race, ahead of Jaime Roson (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA).

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