Over more than 225 kilometres, the Tour de Pologne’s longest stage proved to be quite contested on Wednesday. It still ended up with a mass sprint. Jake Stewart therefore tried to get involved in the fight for the win but could not match the top specialists in the last hundred metres. He then placed fourteenth in this third day of racing. Thursday, a hillier finish is looming for the riders towards Bukovina.
Although the first two stages of the Tour de Pologne already crossed the symbolic two hundred kilometre-mark, the third one scheduled on Wednesday still remained the longest of the event, topping 226 kilometres. However, with a difficult first part of the course, several riders saw the perfect opportunity to upset the bunch. Ten of them managed to break away after some twenty kilometers: Lukasz Owsian (Poland), Lionel Taminiaux (Alpecin-Fenix), Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange), Nicola Conca (Lotto- Soudal), Norman Vahtra (Israel Start-Up Nation), Tom Bohli (Cofidis), Simon Clarke (Qhubeka-NextHash), Daniel Arroyave (EF Education-Nippo) and Niklas Märkl (Team DSM). “We did not want to be in front at all costs, but we would have liked to have one guy in a group of ten”, confessed Frédéric Guesdon. “The breakaway established itself in the climbs, and we could not get into the right move. We then hoped that it would end in a sprint”. While the main sprinters’ teams kept the leaders at a short distance all day long, the tension still heavily increased as they entered the last hour of racing, when the ten leaders decided to go all-in. “The breakaway almost succeeded,” Frédéric continued. “When I saw the gap going up to three minutes with forty kilometers to go, I figured the bunch was not going to catch them up that easily. Rightfully so, as they only brought them back in the final. There was a moment of doubt, but it actually ended with a sprint and the team was able to do some work for Jake, who was able to get in the mix. That was the goal”.
“We will keep trying with Jake”, Frédéric Guesdon
The last three survivors of the breakaway surrendered with five kilometres to go, as the lead-out trains started to move on either side of the road. Jake Stewart followed his trusted mate Fabian Lienhard for a few minutes before slipping into the top ten positions of the peloton within the last two kilometres. He still was in a good position under the flamme rouge, but the young Briton slipped back in the last hundred metres and crossed the line in fourteenth position, a few lengths behind the winner Fernando Gaviria. “He was in a good position early on, but riders came back fast from the back, there was some fighting for position and he lost a bit of speed,” analysed Frédéric Guesdon. “He might have been at the limit too, and probably still lacks a bit of pure power, but I think he can do better. These are still his first mass sprints at WorldTour level. We must continue to work and results will come. He probably still comes short for the win against real sprinters like Gaviria or Bauhaus, but I think his place today does not match his qualities. He is able to make a top 10 on this kind of sprint and we have to continue this way. This is a bit of a common thread on this Tour of Poland. There are still two stages that can suit him and we will keep trying and working for him”.
Stage 5 towards Bielsko Biala on Friday could indeed “really suit” Jake Stewart. Stage 4 tomorrow, however, looks more complicated with a hill-top finish in Bukovina. “We will perhaps give more freedom for the riders to go in the breakaway”, added Frédéric. “This will not prevent us, in any case, from getting involved in the final if it eventually comes back all together. I know the last climb as I’ve done it as a rider. The top is quite rolling and it’s a little less difficult than yesterday”.