It wasn’t quite a bunch sprint on Wednesday on the Tour of Poland. Once again, a crash occurred in the last kilometre, but Arnaud Démare and his lead-out men managed to get through it thanks to their excellent positioning. In a small group, the Frenchman only got beaten by Phil Bauhaus for a close margin, therefore taking second place on the day. Quentin Pacher sits in eighth place overall before a decisive time trial on Thursday.
In the aftermath of a hilly stage, yet not hilly enough to get rid of all the sprinters, a similar scenario was expected on stage 5 this Wednesday. “Considering Arnaud went through the climbs quite well yesterday, and that it was a bit less difficult today, he was confident to go for a sprint finish”, said Sébastien Joly. “We took the start with this goal, especially since it was a flat finish. Today, we only had one plan and it was to go for Arnaud. So, we worked all day for it”. A breakaway including Sean Quinn (EF Education-Easy Post), Yevgeniy Fedorov (Astana), Mads Würtz Schmidt (Israel-Premier Tech), Jakub Murias, Mateusz Grabis (Poland), Michal Schlegel (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Boy van Poppel (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) and Shane Archbold (Bora-hansgrohe) took the lead during the stage, but never really enjoyed a big gap as the bunch proved cautious. About thirty kilometres from the finish, the was less than two minutes as the riders tackled the last climbs of the day. “In the final, the two guys who had the best GC ranking (Quinn and Schmidt, editor’s note) accelerated, the gap went up again, so Bruno [Armirail] went to pull”, added Sébastien. “It allowed us to be in control of the situation, and we did well because we caught the last two men barely three kilometres from the finish. Bruno did a great job once again”.
“We are ready physically”, Arnaud Démare
After having gone over the last climb with ten kilometres to go, the whole lead-out train was in the bunch to fight for the sprint. It appeared at the very last moment. “It was really fast in the final”, said Arnaud Démare. “We made our effort at the right time, just before the last kilometre, because we knew it was a strategic place where we needed to be positioned”. “The guys followed the plan we put in place this morning to perfection,” confirmed Sébastien. “Kono did a good job at first, then Miles took the lead two kilometres from the finish. He put Bram and Jacopo in the ideal spot before the last curves of this twisty final. It’s a good thing we took the lead, actually, because a crash happened in the last kilometre, and we were able to get through it”. Following several falls in a right turn, only a handful of riders were able to fight in the last hundreds of metres, including three men from Groupama-FDJ. “Bram and Jacopo did a great job,” continued Sébastien. “Jacopo dropped Arnaud in the wheel of the Bahrain-Victorious’ guys, then it came down to legs”. “Given the speed we were going at, I felt that I couldn’t do a long sprint, I had to go use drafting and go for it at the last moment”, said Arnaud. “I tried to pass Bauhaus in the last fifty meters, but it did not work out. It was super tiring today, and I did not feel as good as yesterday”.
On the line, the Frenchman therefore grabbed second place, a wheel away from the German winner. “I’m still happy with this Tour of Poland”, confessed Arnaud. “Obviously, we’d prefer to have a stage victory, but we are physically ready and we just need to be patient”. “Of course we would all have preferred to win, but it’s still a good performance,” concluded Sébastien. “Above all, the guys have worked really well as a team. It’s a returning race for them, and I think they’re already doing pretty good. There is also a good atmosphere around Arnaud and Quentin. We are in the mix on the stages and on the GC. Tomorrow, we’ll have a nice time trial for Quentin and Bruno. The victory is not there yet, but the guys are committed”.