After impressive team performance on the first mountain stage of Tour of Croatia, Jan Hirt and Felix Grossschartner both finished in the top 5.
Info: April 19th, stage 2, Trogir – Vrata Bioko (sv. Jure)
Weather: Sunny, cold in the mountains
Course: mountain top finish (final climb – 13,2km long, avg.6,3%)
The climb was long, but not steep enough, so it didn’t really suit me. I prefer much steeper and harder climbs, where you have to shift to the lowest gear. Today it wasn’t the case. I’m not the fastest rider, so it was very hard for me to fight for top 3 in the finale – Jan Hirt said afterwards. – The plan for today was to help me, Michal and Felix save as much energy as possible during the stage and thanks to great teamwork we were able to do that. My teammates were amazing and I’m happy with how we performed together.
I feel that I’m in good shape after the high altitude training camp, the legs are strong and we will try to fight for the GC podium in the upcoming days. I don’t know the climb, which awaits us on Saturday, so I’m not sure if it will suit me, but we will definitely do our best.
After shortening the stage due to heavy snowfall overnight in the mountains, the final ascent to Sv.Jure was cut in half. Instead of 29 there were 13,2 kilometers of climbing in the end, but the stage was still hard enough to make climbers shine.
4 riders managed to break clear on the 107,7km course. Marco Coledan (Trek – Segafredo), Anton Vorobyev (Gazprom-RusVelo), Pirmin Lang (Roth-Akros) and Jonathan Millan (Bicicletas Strongman) established 3:30 lead.
Just before KOM, with 39km remaining, Artem Nych (Gazprom-RusVelo) decided to attack from the peloton. His teammate, Vorobyev, waited for him, but that maneuver was not successful, as they both got caught with 20km to go.
The remaining trio was brought back in at the bottom of the decisive climb. The final ascent saw few attempts to pull away, but none of the riders gained too much on the bunch.
The main group was getting shattered with every kilometer of climbing. CCC Sprandi Polkowice was very well represented in the main pack, with 7 riders and 6km to the finish – Łukasz Owsian, Leszek Pluciński, Nikolay Mihaylov, Michal Schlegel, Felix Grosschartner, Jan Hirt and Branislau Samoilau.
The latter tested the group, with a late solo attack and got reeled in with just 3km to go. It was followed by the move of top favorites. It included Jan Hirt and Felix Grosschartner, who were able to respond to the acceleration. Czech still had enough in his tank to attack himself on the final kilometer, but eventually it was Krystijan Durasek (UAE Team Emirates) who got the win. He launched his uphill sprint in the right moment, just before the line, which was surprisingly hidden around the corner. Jaime Roson (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) was 2nd and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) 3rd.
Hirt reached the finish in 4th place and Grossschartner arrived just seconds later. Aside from them also Schlegel, and Samoilau checked in in the top 20 and thanks to great team performance, the “orange squad” took the lead in the team classification. Meanwhile Durasek will wear the GC jersey on tomorrow’s stage 3.