The Polish champion from Team Sky also wins the 5th stage and strengthens his lead in the quest for the yellow jersey.

Michal Kwiatkowski is putting on quite a show on the roads of Poland. After yesterday’s victory on the Szczyrk wall, today the Polish champion from Team Sky dominated again at Bielsko-Biala in the 5th stage of the Tour de Pologne – UCI World Tour.

It was an electrifying finish along the last, slightly uphill, one km straightaway that led to the arrival. The sprinters left in the group seemed as if they might have prevailed; however in the end it came down to a fantastic head-to-head between the first and second place riders in the general classification. It was Kwiatkowski against Teuns, the national idol in the yellow jersey against the Belgian rider who won the 2017 edition. Like yesterday at Szczyrk, also today at Bielsko Biala the strongest rider was the Polish National Champion, who was fast enough and strong enough to beat everyone. At the finish line Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing) had to settle for second and Italian Enrico Battaglin (LottoNL – Jumbo) came in third; Pascal Ackermann (Bora-hansgrohe) the strong German sprinter who won the first two stages, was fourth and Italian Enrico Gasparotto (Bahrain Merida) fifth.

Michal Kwiatkowski can thus count two career wins in the Tour de Pologne, and with a special 10” bonus he scored with today’s victory he has strengthened his lead in the general classification, where he now commands with 12” on Dylan Teuns and 20” on New Zealand’s George Bennett (LottoNL – Jumbo).

Michal Kwiatkowski will show up on the starting grids for the last two stages of the Tour de Pologne wearing the Carrefour yellow jersey as the leader of the general classification. These next two stages in the Tatra Mountains will also be the hardest: tomorrow stage 6 will cover 129 km from Zakopane to Bukovina Resort and on Friday the 7th and last stage will be 136 km from Bukovina Resort to Bukowina Tatrzanska.

Here’s a recap of today’s race:
Today’s stage route was suited to breaks, spanning 152 km from the famous Salt Mines in “Wieliczka”, located just outside of Krakow, to Bielsko-Biala. In fact, right after the start a small group of 7 riders went on the attack: Kazak Zhandos Bizhigitov (Astana), Frenchmen Mickael Delage (Fdj) and Matias Le Turnier (Cofidis), Russian Alexander Porsev (Gazprom) and Pole Kamil Zielinski (Reprezentacja Polski) – a rider who wore the yellow leader’s jersey for one day in the 2015 Tour de Pologne. Also in the gang was the Tauron magenta jersey Jan Tratnik (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) and the Lotto blue jersey Jenthe Biermans (Katusha – Alpecin); both riders were vying to rack up valuable points to reinforce their leads in their respective classifications as best climber and most active rider in the pack. This band of fugitives gained a maximum advantage of about 2’.30”

With about 40 km to go to the arrival, three riders in the group fell; nr.85, Ben Gastauer (Ag2r) saw the worst of it and was forced to drop out.
About 35 km from the arrival, after the day’s final GPM, the fugitives ahead of the race were down to 4 riders: Zielinski, Tratnik, Bizhigitov and Le Turnier. Then at the beginning of the three, 7.2 km laps around the final Bielsko-Biala circuit, there were only 3 fugitives left: Zielinski, Tratnik and Le Turnier. They all got caught at the end of the first lap, when there were just 14 km to go to the arrival, with the pack being spurred on particularly by the men on Team Sky with Kwiatkowski in the yellow jersey, as well as by team Mitchelton-Scott. At this point in the last two laps there were repeated attacks, with the group leaving no room for escape. And the final sprint was a sheer spectacle, with Michal Kwiatkowski as the star of an extraordinary performance beating everyone in the sprint.

The TDP classifications
The Carrefour yellow jersey is being worn by Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky), who clearly leads the Lotos classification for best Polish rider as well.
Slovenia’s Jan Tratnik (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) hangs on to the Tauron magenta jersey as best climber and Belgian Jenthe Biermans (Katusha-Alpecin) still holds the Lotto blue jersey as the most active rider in the group.
Germany’s Pascal Ackermann (Bora-hansgrohe) is back in the Hyundai white jersey for best sprinter.
BMC Racing leads the team classification.

Riders’ quotes…
“Today’s win was really unexpected and a great success. I knew that there were many sprinters who would be fighting for the stage win in the bunch, but I really didn’t expect to win it. During the last part of the stage I said to my team that I would try to go for the sprint and try to be at the front of the pack in the last 2km – it was one of my longest sprints ever and the long drag really wore out all the sprinters and GC contenders. I might have started too early, but if you are sprinting against people like Pascal Ackermann, you might have to start early to weaken the dynamic sprinters. In the end I had a lot of great sprinters around me and I kept looking around to evaluate the positioning, but eventually I managed to win it and the feeling is amazing. It’s great to win such a stage the way I did, so now on to the next stages. For sure Teuns and I will not give up sparring against each other to win this race, and I saw how angry he was after today’s stage, so for sure he will not give up tomorrow. That’s the Tour de Pologne, though, and you have to fight until the end. There are 2 more stages left though and anything can happen, but I’m happy that I could finish today within my comfort zone and still have the energy left for the rest of the Tour,” says Michal Kwiatkowski.

“It wasn’t the hardest one of this year’s climbing stages, but it was still hard for the final sprint. Mitchelton-Scott were driving up the pace in the last part of the race so everyone was nervous, but I was very well positioned in the last few km into the finish line and could successfully sprint. With 300m I was almost touching the wheel at the front so I eased off a bit, which might have cost me the win today but I had to lose the speed at that 300m point. It was unlucky, but I’m still happy because I didn’t lose any time today“ says Dyaln Teuns.

“Today was a mountain stage and I couldn’t be happier with the 4th place in today’s stage. As a sprinter, racing in a climbing stage against the GC contenders was a big challenge and a big achievement to have got 4th. The last climb really surprised me, as it was much harder than I expected, so this result matters even more to me. For sure it was not easy to compete against riders like Kwiatkowski” says the white Hyundai jersey Pascal Ackermann.

“I came here to support the main sprinter, Nathan Haas, and Poland was not originally in my plans. Unfortunately, Nathan was unwell from the first day and I got a free hand to go in breakaways on the first stages. After so many days in the breakaway I would say that the blue jersey is almost safe, but I like riding hard races and I will still do my best in all the other stages of Tour de Pologne too. It’s good to be in the break and to feel afterwards tired from the job well done” says the Lotto blue jersey Jenthe Biermans.