The 78th Tour de Pologne started on Monday with a long stage between Lublin and Chełm. After the race got back all together with fifty kilometres still to go, Antoine Duchesne gave it a try with two other riders for about half an hour but could not hold the bunch back. The latter therefore came as a whole for the cobbled, slightly uphill finish, where Jake Stewart was unable to compete for the victory (19th).

For a start, the menu was not so light. As an opening stage, the Tour de Pologne featured no less than 216 kilometers over an undulating terrain to Chełm, on Monday. This did not prevent Sean Bennett (Qhubeka-ASSOS), Michal Paluta (Poland) and Kazakhstan champion Yevgeniy Fedorov (Astana) from going on the attack in the opening minutes and establishing the day’s breakaway. “We knew that it was going to be a sprint today, and so it was an usual scenario,” said Frédéric Guesdon, a sports director of Groupama-FDJ in Poland alongside Jussi Veikkanen. “The teams that had the main sprinters controlled, especially Deceuninck-Quick Step, UAE Team Emirates and Bahrain Victorious. They gave the fugitives up to six minutes, but they mostly kept them under three minutes. Then, they easily caught them with fifty kilometres to go.” A few attacks within the peloton then brought some excitement to a very stereotypical race, and Jake Stewart also took part in the intermediate sprint with 40 kilometres to go in order to “get the engine started”.

“A good first day”, Antoine Duchesne

Eventually, a new trio was formed a few minutes later, and included Antoine Duchesne. “It was not really planned but we asked them to be careful and he was,” noted Frédéric. “The stage was quite calm and a bit long at first, but it was a good course and good roads,” said the Canadian. “It wasn’t too stressful for most of the day, but with fifty kilometres to go, the attack started and we rode much faster. There was some action. Thirty-five kilometers from the finish, I went away with Jos van Emden and Tom Scully and we did about fifteen kilometers in front. However, on big roads, we didn’t really have the opportunity to hold on against the peloton. In addition, the approach to the circuit was fast and the circuit itself was hard. It was still a good first day.” Already on the attack during the opening stage of the Tour de l’Ain, Antoine Duchesne was able to provide some effort before getting caught with fifteen kilometres to go, while the mass sprint was looming.

For Groupama-FDJ, everything was refocused on Jake Stewart, who especially benefited from the work of Fabian Lienhard in the last kilometres. “Jake was in a good position until the bottom of the last kilometre-climb, but he struggled a bit on the cobbles,” explained Frédéric. “He did not have the power compared to others and didn’t manage to get a big result. We could have hoped for better considering the slight uphill finishes are his speciality, but the cobbles got the better of him. He might have been more comfortable on asphalt, but the shape still doesn’t look too bad and there are other stages that could suit him. We knew anyway that it was going to be hard because there is still a good field here. Maybe we also lacked a little support around him, which may have cost him some energy.” While other opportunities await the young Englishman, the second stage might not be one of them, as the finish will feature a steep climb (1,5km at 8%). “It will probably go fast, and it will come down to the best punchers and climbers,” added Frédéric. “We will try to put Attila in a good position at the bottom so that he can make the best possible climb, but the peloton will certainly not be complete at that point given the course”.

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