Tour of Austria: Hirt in yellow after the mountain stage

On the first mountains stage of Tour of Austria Jan Hirt has confirmed great climbing skills, by claiming second place. Czech from CCC Sprandi Polkowice also climbed his way up to the GC lead.

I got a lot of help from my teammates and they deserve a lot of credit. They were protecting me throughout the entire day and brought me to the final climb in a good position, at the head of the group. Also, Branislau Samoilau’s attack few kilometers from the top, made things easier for us. We didn’t have to pull and we could wait for others to react. After Samoilau got caught, I started to accelerate on the last 4 kilometers. and I arrived at the summit with De La Parte. I tried to beat him in the two-man sprint, but he was faster in the finale – Jan Hirt explained.

Successful Tour de Suisse gave me a lot of confidence and I started to believe that I can stay with best climbers on the toughest ascents. Also the team has put more trust in me and selected me as the leader for Tour of Austria. Thanks to that I could save energy on the first stages and wait for the mountains. 

We got the leader jersey and we will of course try to retain it all the way to the finish of the last stage. I believe that we have a strong team that is capable of achieving that. There is one more mountain stage ahead of us. I’ve never ridden that climb to Kitzbüheler Horn, but I’ve heard it’s similar to Solden, from Tour de Suisse, where I finished 7th. So it should suit me. I feel I’m in good form and I hope I can maintain it to the very end of the race. 

Stage 4 kicked off in the rain and in such conditions Jan Tratnik (Amplatz-BMC) made a solo move. Later, two brothers Luca and Simone Sterbini (Bardiani – CSF) decided to bridge the gap. With 70 kilometers into the race two group merged together and joined forces against the peloton. They could steadily build a gap in dry weather since the rain stopped and the roads dried up.

The trio established four-minute lead over the bunch, led by Katusha, Roompot – Oranje Peloton and the “orange squad”.

With 30 kilometers to go Simone Sterbini lost contact with his fellow escapees. Dozen kilometers later the two leading riders were caught by the shredded, 30-man main group. When they started the ascent the field included 30 riders, but with every minute of climbing, it got smaller and smaller,. When it was 7 kilometers left, Branislau Samoilau made a breakaway attempt. He was reeled in, but he laid good foundation for Jan Hirt’s attack. Czech from CCC Sprandi Polkowice took off in the finale with Victor De La Parte (Team Vorarlberg) and they hit the top together. Spaniard was fastest on the line and took the win. Hirt claimed second and thanks to his great performance he took over the leader jersey. Ben Hermans (BMC Racing) was third on the stage, 8 seconds back.

Two other CCC Sprandi Polkowice checked in in Top 20 – Branislau Samoilau was 18th, and Sylwester Szmyd finished 19th.