After yesterday’s mourning fraction with the peloton and the entire Tour de Pologne family paying their respects to Bjorg Lambrecht, today the race picked up again, with the 5th stage from “Kopalnia Soli” Wieliczka to Bielsko-Biala for 154 km.
On the long, slightly uphill straightaway in Bielsko-Biala, Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton – Scott) put in a powerful sprint to win. The Slovenian bested Spain’s Eduard Prades (Movistar) and British Champion Ben Swift (Team Ineos). This is his second victory in Poland after his win in Katowice on Sunday.
In an arrival that wasn’t particularly friendly to the pure sprinters, Germany’s Pascal Ackermann (BORA – hansgrohe) managed however to hang on to the Carrefour yellow jersey as leader of the general classification, where he is now ahead by 4” on Mezgec and 16” on Swift. Ackermann is also still wearing the Lotos white jersey as best sprinter.
With the sixth place he took on today’s finish line, Rafal Majka (BORA – hansgrohe) has shown to be in top form, ready to vie for the general classification in the second part of the Tour de Pologne, which starts tomorrow with the first mountain stage, Zakopane – Koscielisko for 160 km.
Team Lotto-Soudal showed up to the starting line with all six of Bjorg Lambrecht’s team mates. The race started to heat up with a breakaway group of four riders that took off shortly after the start. The ever present Frenchman, Charles Planet (Team Novo Nordisk) has up until now been in all of the breaks at the Tour de Pologne, which have earned him the Tauron magenta jersey as the best climber and the Lotto blue jersey for the most active rider in the group. He was accompanied by Poland’s own Kamil Gradek (CCC TEAM) and Szymon Rekita (Polish National Team), along with Belgium’s Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal). They managed to reach a maximum advantage of about 3’30”, but were caught by the pack with about 34 km to go to the arrival, during the final gpm of the day.
This is where Colombian Rodrigo Contreras (Astana Pro Team) and Norwegian Frederik Hagen (Lotto-Soudal), tried an immediate counter-attack, coming off of the gpm first and second; then Italian Champion Davide Formolo (BORA – hansgrohe) caught up with them, but on the downhill the group closed the gap and didn’t allow for any more leeway.
Afterwards, with about 25 km to go to the arrival, Slovenia’s Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Merida) attempted a solitary escape, with Ethiopian Tsgabu Grmay (Mitchelton-Scott) and German Simon Geschke (CCC Team) catching up to him shortly after. It looked like a good try, with the three riders passing the finish line in Bielsko-Biala for the first of three laps (7.2 km each) with a twenty-odd second lead on the pack, which was being spurred on by the men from BORA – hansgrohe. Eventually this trio was also caught at the beginning of the last lap. It all ended in a jostling sprint, where Luka Mezgec managed to prevail over Prades and Swift.
In the other classifications, Charles Planet (Team Novo Nordisk) deservedly confirms his Lotto blue jersey as the most active rider in the group.
While the Tauron magenta jersey for best climber passes on to the shoulders of Colombian Rodrigo Contreras (Astana Pro Team).
Szymon Rekita (Polish National Team) leads the Lotos classification as the best Polish rider.
Team BORA – hansgrohe continues their lead in the team classification.
The race must go on, but the Tour de Pologne will never forget. Again today along the entire route there was a spirit of sadness and mourning for the tragedy that occurred on Monday, with many displays of affection from the public to remember and commemorate Lambrecht, including many signs and banners reading #ForBjorg and the number 143 everywhere.
“Katowice, the fastest street on downhill, winning today in Bielsko-Biala in an uphill sprint. The first sprint downhill, I cannot say I was the strongest; I was the guy with the most luck, and also with good speed and a good nose for opening the gap. But this time was different. Actually, before the race I marked this stage as the best chance for me to win here and I did a great job positioning myself; also, my team did a great job in the last lap to keep me there in the front and in the end, everything worked out perfectly. I was behind Swift. Team Ineos did a great job in the last k and it was my job to just follow and try to do my best in the last kilometres. But today was not an easy day for all the peloton. Of course, we’ve only been grieving for two days. We will never forget him and today during the whole stage I had in mind how dangerous our sport is and how fragile we are, actually, because we take a lot of risks, sometimes we forget about it, we don’t think about it, but there is risk and it is tragic” says the stage winner Luka Mezgec.
“In spite of the grief of today, it’s still a good feeling to be in yellow. It’s still a World Tour Race and to be leader for 5 days is amazing for a sprinter. Today was a really hard stage and we saw that not that many sprinters arrived. It was just too much for me at the end of the day and Luka was a good winner today. Of course, the race is going on, but these last two days have been very difficult for the riders. Everyone is really sad and shocked about what happened and you can still feel it in the peloton. But we have to look forward to the next days and hope that everything will be fine” says the yellow jersey Pascal Ackermann.
“Now the second part of the tour of Poland gets underway with the mountains. Today I’m in good shape, I feel pretty well, but not like 100%. Actually, I prepared to a certain point for the Vuelta Espana, but I felt really comfortable today, I also tried sprinting. Today for Pascal we also tried to go for the sprint, but sometimes it doesn’t work. But we are happy we’ve won two stages here and now we’ll try to get a good result in the GC” says Rafal Majka.
“I was happy to take the mountain jersey today, it was nice to do this stage like this. But for the next days we have two leaders, Ion Izaguirre and Miguel Angel Lopez. I will try to do my best to help them, and of course I’d like to fight for this gpm jersey in the last stages” says the new magenta jersey Rodrigo Contreras.