In Bielsko-Biała’s challenging finish, where Rudy Molard grabbed a nice third place in 2020, Jake Stewart tried to get in the mix again in stage 5 of the Tour of Poland, on Friday. With the precious help of his teammates, the 21-year-old Briton managed to enter the day’s top-10 as he finished eighth in a reduced sprint won by Nikias Arndt. A promising performance.
On Friday, the riders had to face what has become a traditional stage of the Tour de Pologne. The bunch was set to make his way to Bielsko-Biała, where the slightly uphill road to the finish usually crowned strong riders since 2018. However, before reaching the local circuit – which had to be done four times -, a first battle occurred at the start of the day. However, the fight for the breakaway proved to be rather short and Evgeny Fedorov (Astana-Premier Tech), Daniel Arroyave (EF Education-Nippo), Robert Power (Qubeka-NextHash), Emils Liepins (Trek-Segafredo), Jonas Rickaert (Alpecin -Fenix) and Lukasz Owsian (Poland) managed to hit the front. “We were vigilant at the start as we did not want to miss a big move,” said Frédéric Guesdon. “We did not know how the other teams would react, and if some of them would control as the finish was kind of special. When we noticed that the move was gone, that there were not that many in there, and that we would surely have a sprint to the finish, we all gathered around Jake like we initially planned”. The leading riders were kept within four minutes the whole time, as the peloton slowly started to pace up in the second, hillier, part of the stage. “We needed to save as much energy as possible with these few climbs before the circuit,” added Frédéric.
“Plenty of good things to take from this stage”, Jake Stewart
When the race actually entered the final circuit, with twenty-five kilometres to go, four riders were still in the lead: Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto-Soudal), Jonas Rickaert (Alpecin-Fenix), Larry Warbasse (AG2R-Citroën) and Sean Bennett (Qhubeka-NextHash). However, the field was still quite big starting the four laps around Bielsko-Biala. “I think it was not as hard a day as some people expected,” said Jake Stewart. “The last climb was not actually raced so hard so it came down to the circuit. We worked really well as a team, everyone stayed together and the boys helped me into the final lap”. “We’re used to doing this circuit on the Tour de Pologne, so we knew it was going to push hard and hurt the legs. The goal was to put Jake in the best possible position,” continued Frédéric. “Fabian and Romain were supposed to be our last two men alongside Jake, and they were indeed”. The Briton then recounted the last minutes of the race and this long ascending false flat: “I was in the top five positions in the last two kilometres into the finish. Fabian did a turn, and then Romain took me to 300 meters. From there, I was on the front and so I started the sprint. I tried to hold on but in the end guys came past me and I didn’t have the speed in the finish”.
In this hard finish, Jake Stewart eventually placed eighth, not so far from the winner Nikias Arndt. “As a result, I think that we can be happy as a team,” he said. “It was a good step in the right direction. Everyone worked for it and I think there is plenty of good things to take from the stage to make progress moving forwards”. Later, the young man did point out small mistakes, but Frédéric Guesdon was still positive on the overall performance. “The guys did everything they could,” he added. “We didn’t win, that’s true, but I think they’ll have nothing to be ashamed of. We didn’t have any issue, Jake was in a good position, and then the legs did the talk. He is more or less where he belongs. They did what they had to do and Jake was able to go for it. I don’t think we could have won by acting differently. Jake has certainly shown that we can count on him on such finishes.” On Friday, Romain Seigle also climbed six places overall. He now finds himself in 22nd place and will be keen to deliver a solid time trial tomorrow on the 19 kilometre-course in Katowice. “Romain will do it properly, and I think Attila will too,” concluded Frédéric. “The next day, there’s a 99% chance it will finish with a sprint anyway. They will try to do well. For Attila, who is still young, it’s also an opportunity to work and improve for the future”.