A proper bunch sprint took place in Opole on Tuesday on the Tour de Pologne, three days after the chaotic finish of stage 1. However, good positioning entering the home stretch was essential, and Paul Penhoët unfortunately found himself too far back to get a top result. Despite the good work of his lead-out man Bram Welten, the young French sprinter had to settle for eleventh place on the day. The more demanding finish in Bielsko-Biała on Wednesday could be more to his advantage.

Between Strzelin and Opole, nothing was supposed to get in the way of the sprinters throughout the 200 kilometres of racing. At least, no climb. “It was still nervous because there was quite a bit of wind and we were riding on exposed roads for a large part of the day”, said Frédéric Guesdon. “There were real risks of echelons. Ineos Grenadiers made an attempt 130 kilometres from the finish, after a cobblestones section, but it only lasted 3-4 kilometres. It was too far from the finish, and they did not keep pushing”. The lead of the day’s breakaway, made of Yevgeniy Gidich (Astana Qazaqstan), Jacopo Mosca (Lidl-Trek), Sebastian Schönberger (Human Powered Health), Norbert Banaszek (HRE Mazowsze Serce Polski) and Patryk Stosz (Voster ATS), was however reduced and then controlled by the sprinters’ teams. A few minutes later, Lenny Martinez also suffered a small setback. “It was nervous, and he got caught in a crash,” said Frédéric. “Fortunately, it then got calmer with less wind and exposed sections. Lenny felt some pain in his behind due to the shock, but he was able to get going again”. The peloton set its own pace for the rest of the day and caught Stosz, the last fugitive, with twenty-five kilometres to go. “We knew it was going to be really very nervous because of the wind, and although not much happened, it was quite tense all day”, added Paul Penhoët. “The whole team rode well around Lenny and me. It was perfect”.

“Frustrated with myself”, Paul Penhoët

In the last fifteen kilometres, the bunch gradually set up for the final sprint and the fight for position proved rough. “Everyone was fresh, it was tailwind, so the final was quite fast, and all the teams wanted to set their sprinter up,” explained Paul. First, Lewis Askey and Sam Watson kept the Groupama-FDJ sprinter in the first part of the peloton, then Bram Welten took over to lead his young teammate out. The duo was still in a good position entering the last three kilometres, despite a tough fight, but in the final moments, it got split up. “Bram said that we should be well positioned in the turn at 500 meters, and he was”, resumed Frédéric. “Unfortunately Paul was not in his wheel, but the rider who was there took the win”. The Dutchman came out from the last curve in the lead and launched the sprint, but it was Olav Kooij who reaped the rewards. “I lost Bram’s wheel a kilometre from the finish, and that’s what cost a good result, even victory,” said Paul. “We can see that after the turn, the positions almost didn’t change. I was a bit in the traffic at 500 meters, before the corner. Then a rider tried to overtake me from the outside and we just went straight. I came out of the corner in 30th position, and I had almost no speed… Despite being frustrated with myself, I try to take the positive out of today. I started from far and I overtook nearly twenty guys. The legs are good, but now, I have to not let loose the wheel stupidly”.

At the finish, Paul Penhoët had to settle for eleventh place. “It’s a shame because Bram did a great job and a podium was possible”, confirmed Frédéric. The former rider of “La Conti” could however have another opportunity to show himself on Wednesday, in Bielsko-Biala. “The uphill false flat finish may suit Paul, if he has good legs,” concluded Frédéric. “We know this finish where Rudy and Jake have got results. This is a good opportunity, so we’ll go for it”.

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