The king of the mountains classification jersey returned to CCC Sprandi Polkowice after an impressive climbing performance by Grega Bole. Davide Rebellin also did very well on a Nowy Sącz-Zakopane stage and arrived at the line in the first group.
I felt really good on the first five KOMs of the day and my legs were fresh. Also my sprinting skills helped my get the points to the best climber classification. The hills were very steep, but not that long, so I could take advantage of my speed – Grega Bole said afterwards.
Suddenly, before sixth categorized climb, my legs stopped working that well. I think it was because I was not competing for few weeks and I was lacking racing rhythm. I also hadn’t had a chance to do some longer training rides, at higher intensity.
I don’t remember when was the last time I put on the KOM jersey. If it happened, it must have been in the younger age categories. I remember when was the last time I was riding in such a long and exhausting breakaway though. It was in the Giro d’Italia, about two years ago, when I was caught 10 kilometers from the line.
Of course now we want do maintain the lead all the way to the finish in Cracow, but tomorrow’s stage is also very hard and anything can happen. I will see how my body will react after such a hard stage. Right now I’m very tired.
The day’s main escape was formed at very high speed. Few CCC Sprandi Polkowice riders tried to get in the break, but due to sprinter-like speed, only Grega Bole managed to go clear. He spent most of the stage with Edward Beltran (Tinkoff-Saxo), Sebastien Turgot (AG2R), Kris Boeckmans, Vegard Breen and Boris Vallee (all Lotto Soudal).
The peloton let them gain around 6-minute lead, which remained at this level for the first 100 kilometers. Given the long distance – 223 kilometers – and the level of difficulty – the gap was not that large.
There were 8 category 1 climbs awaiting the riders. They were all located on the circuit, with three major hills – in Ząb, Gubałówka, Głodówka. The lap was covered 3 times. Bole won first 4 KOM’s, colected 40 points and took over the lead in the KOM classification. Every time it was Beltran who crested the top right behind him, in 2nd place. The Colombian himself claimed one mountain prime and reduced his losses in the classification to only 2 points. Tinkoff-Saxo rider was also the last one, from the escape, to get caught. He was reeled in before sixth categorized climb.
Astana was setting strong pace at that point. They shattered the group to pieces and only 40 cyclists left in the main bunch. Davide Rebellin and Maciej Paterski survived the selection, but later the group shrank to only 12 riders, and only experienced Italian was able to keep up the pace.
In the finale Bert De Clercq (Lotto-Soudal) took off solo. He established 15-second gap and it turned out to be enough to win the stage. He bested Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) and Sebastien Reichenbach (IAM Cycling), who crossed the line together, 3 seconds back. Rebellin stayed focused until the very end and finished in 6th. Now he sits 12th overall, 17 seconds behind the new leader, De Clercq.
It was a hard stage, held on a very demanding course and under hot weather. I felt fine on the last climb, but when it was 10 kilometers to go I had cramps. I couldn’t push hard and was unable to fight for the stage victory. Tomorrow is the next mountain stage and I will try to improve my sixth place from today – Davide Rebellin explained.