Weather played the biggest role in mountainous stage 5 of Tour de Pologne, won by Tim Wellens Lotto-Soudal). “Riders in orange” showcased great determination since 7 of them reached the finish. Given the extreme conditions and the fact that around 90 riders abandoned, it was quite an accomplishment.
Stage 5 from Wieliczka to Zakopane was one of the hardest in many riders’ careers. Not only because of 7 category 1 climbs on the course (at Kościelisko, Głodówka, Ząb) located in the second part of the stage, but also due to rain, cold temperatures and long distance of 225 kilometers.
The first two hours of racing featured numerous breakaway attempts and few crashes. CCC Sprandi Polkowice riders were involved in some of them, but they were not hurt badly and continued to race.
Finally, after covering 75km, an 18-man breakaway was established and it included some quality riders and pre-race favorites. Maciej Paterski was one of the lucky attackers who managed to go clear, as well as Jonathan Castroviejo, Ruben Fernandez, Giovanni Visconti (all Movistar), Alessandro De Marchi, Philippe Gilbert, Loic Vliegen (all BMC Racing), Davide Villella, Alberto Bettiol (both Cannondale-Drapac), Tim Wellens, Sander Armee (both Lotto-Soudal), Primoz Roglić (LottoNL-Jumbo), Bob Jungels (Etixx-Quickstep), Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo), Nicholas Roche (Team Sky), Hugo Houle (Ag2r La Mondiale), Ignatas Konovalovas (FDJ), Dion Smith (ONE Pro Cycling). They worked hard to gain 3:40 gap over the bunch, which was let by the teams with no representative in the front.
Also Felix Grossschartner was initially in the leading group, but he hit the ground in the slippery descent and had to return to the field, with no major injuries.
The weather was not improving, as the combination of rain and cold made racing a nightmare for a lot of the riders, including those pedaling in the break. Maciej Paterski won first cat. 1 climb of the day in Kościelisko, but later had to return to the reduced pack.
Most of the escapees got reeled on the first, out of two, 50-kilometer lap around Zakopane. The only escapee who stayed up front was Wellens. At some point he was joined by Paweł Cieślik (Verva ActiveJet) and Alberto Bettiol (Cannondale Drapac), but later Belgian left them behind and went off solo.
He set for himself a solid pace and was gaining more and more ground on his rivals. He crossed the line alone, with a large gap – 3:48 – over chasing Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac). Winner’s teammate, Tiesj Benoot finished 3rd, 4:37 back. Rider were coming by themselves or in 2-3-man groups, which shows how demanding the race was.
The weather took its toll on CCC Sprandi Polkowice riders, as the top finisher, Felix Grossschartner, was 27th, 15:29 back. “Orange squad” showcased great determination though, as 7 runners managed to complete the stage in those terrible conditions, while around 90 riders in total had to abandon.