The 2023 Tour de Pologne started on Saturday with a first stage around Poznań. The expected bunch sprint did take place, but it wasn’t as big as expected due to very poor weather and a crash that split the peloton into several pieces. Paul Penhoët was caught in there and was unable to join the fight at the finish while Tim Merlier took the victory. The whole peloton, on the other hand, was given the winner’s time due to the race circumstances. The first climbs will be tackled on Sunday.

Just over 183 kilometres made up the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne this Saturday, and without any climb along the way, the outcome seemed obvious. This first day of racing was made for the sprinters and the traditional scenario then unfolded at the start. It only took a handful of kilometres for Kamil Malecki (Q36.5), Norbert Banaszek, Patryk Stosz (Poland) and Filippo Ridolfo (Novo Nordisk) to establish the day’s breakaway. “The sprinter teams came to chase early on and never gave more than two minutes of a lead,” explained Frédéric Guesdon. “It was pretty fast in the first part because there was a tailwind, then we hit the headwind, the peloton spread across the width of the road and the pace slowly increased in the last fifty kilometres. It was a good scenario for a return to racing”. However, the bunch got worried about the final due to threatening weather. “Rain was forecasted from 4 p.m. and they got it just right,” added Frédéric. “It started raining with forty kilometres to go and there was even a storm at the finish twenty minutes before we got there. Safety barriers were swept away, the road was very wet and there were also large puddles of water at some points”.

“It’s a pity”, Frédéric Guesdon

At this point, the day’s breakaway had already been caught, but the nervousness was still in the air. “The teams feared this wet final so they wanted to stay in the top positions”, explained Frédéric. “Two kilometres before entering the racing circuit where the finish line was, a crash still happened. Paul and Sam were caught and Lenny, like many others, was blocked. We wanted to go for Paul and protect Lenny regarding the GC today. Unfortunately, Paul’s chances vanished at that moment. That’s a pity. Bram is the only one who has gone through the crash”. On the circuit, some other crashes occurred within a very small peloton and Bram Welten could not make his way to the top positions. The Dutchman eventually crossed the line in 22nd place, but the whole peloton was given the time of the day’s winner Tim Merlier. “During the stage, we were told that the times would be taken at the entrance of the circuit but given that the crash took place two kilometres prior, we hoped they would take it into account”, said Frédéric. “A lot of leaders were caught, so they gave everyone the same time.”

Sam Watson and Paul Penhoët reached the line without major issues and will be able to start on Sunday, towards Duszniki-Zdrój. “It will be quite hard”, predicts Frédéric. “We will do everything to put Lenny in the best possible position and get the best possible result”.

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