After great team effort and outstanding climbing performance, Jan Hirt won arguably the hardest stage of Tour of Austria. He also took over the GC lead.
Yesterday I didn’t lose too much time in a stage which didn’t really suit me, so today I was in a good position to attack the general classification – Jan Hirt said afterwards. – Everything went perfectly today. We began setting the pace late in the stage and when the climb started we wanted to make it hard for everyone. The plan was to attack with around 7km to go and my teammates did a great job in helping me materialize that strategy. We were in the control the entire time and I never doubted that I could win.
Now the goal is to keep the jersey. It’s always hard to defend the lead, but I have a solid advantage, strong team and I believe that we can take the victory home.
Tomorrow is another stage with a mountain top finish. If my legs are good, I will try to go for another win, but we will see tomorrow how my body reacts to today’s effort.
The queen stage was 183 kilometers long and not only featured mountain top finish to Edelweißspitze (HC), but also two other climbs (both cat. 3 – in Ramsau and Embach). They were not as hard as the famous Austrian slope to Großglockner, but still left their mark on riders legs and were going to make some selection in the field.
Piotr Brożyna was one of the “riders in orange” who tried to get into the break, but eventually a 5-man group broke clear without him. The day’s main escape included Antwan Tolhoek (Roompot), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani), Thierry Hupond (Delko Marseille), Matthias Krizek (Roth) and Max Kuen (Amplatz). Initially also David Per (Adria Mobil) was part of the action, but he got dropped and returned to the pack. Even though there was a demanding climb awaiting in the end, the peloton didn’t let the breakaway gain more than 4 minutes of advantage.
Before the bottom of the climb CCC Sprandi Polkowice moved up at the head of the pack, to set Jan Hirt up for the ascent. When the road kicked up the escape split, leaving Tonelli and Tolhoek in the lead.
Not many riders were able to keep up with the pace set by “orange squad” and the peloton got shattered. The remaining two escapees – Tonelli and Tolhoek were caught with 8km to go.
At that point Sywlester Szmyd and Leszek Pliuciński were pacing the field and made a lot of riders suffer. They whittled down the main group to just a few of the best climbers. Hirt launched an attack from that shredded group and only David Belda (Team Roth) managed to stay on his wheel. The duo was extending their lead over the chasers and in the end CCC Sprandi Polkowice rider took off alone. Even though he pulled away with just 1,5km to go he was still able to put 42 seconds on the Spaniard. Czech reached the top solo and could celebrate not only the stage win, but also a GC lead. In the general standings he is 1:17 ahead of Guillaume Martin (Wanty – Groupe Gobert), who was 3rd on the stage, and 1:29 ahead Patrick Schelling (Team Vorarlberg).
Three stages are left in the race. Tomorrow is another mountain top finish and another opportunity for Hirt to shine.