On Friday, Paul Penhoët finally had the opportunity to do a proper sprint on the Tour of Poland. In Krakow, he therefore claimed fifth place on the last stage and therefore on the last bunch sprint, won by Tim Merlier. Doing so, he scored his seventeenth top-10 in 2023 while Lenny Martinez retained twelfth place on GC. Matej Mohoric won the race overall.

Despite an expected bunch sprint in Krakow on Friday, the final winner of the 80th Tour de Pologne was not yet known this morning in Zabrze, as Matej Mohoric and Joao Almeida were separated by less than a second at the top of the general classification. This situation therefore led to a more frenetic race than anticipated over the 166 kilometres on the menu. “UAE Team Emirates decided to go for the bonus sprint,” explained Frédéric Guesdon. “We only partly expected it, because it was still located after sixty-six kilometres, and on paper, Mohoric seemed much faster than Almeida. So we weren’t sure, but we decided to be careful. In the end, UAE pulled immediately, and we understood that the first part of the stage would be blocked. Actually, it didn’t bother us since we wanted a sprint at the finish. We also had to be attentive after the bonus sprint. We couldn’t let 7-8 riders go away, because on just 100k, it could have been difficult to catch them. Many teams were interested in the final sprint, and only three riders eventually broke away”. Dorian Godon (AG2R-Citroën), Christian Scaroni (Astana) and Marci Budzinski (Poland) therefore led the way for the last two hours of racing, but never enjoyed a bigger advantage than 1’30. The peloton therefore easily picked them up fifteen kilometres from the finish, starting the first of three laps on the Krakow local circuit.

“They need to keep going this way”, Frédéric Guesdon

The fight for positions started immediately, and the Groupama-FDJ team gathered around Paul Penhoët. “Clément and Lorenzo were in charge of helping Lewis, Bram and Paul on the first laps of the circuit”, explained Frédéric. Starting the last one, the young French sprinter and his lead-out man were right up there, on the first part of the bunch. “The final circuit was quite tortuous, but I always stayed with Bram”, explained Paul. “With 1.5 km to go, Lewis came back up and helped us to get back in front. Bram found himself at the front of the peloton a little before the flamme rouge, but he managed to hold on until the last 500-600 meters. Then, some riders came in overspeed from behind, I managed to get on the wheels but that already forced me to do a strong effort”. Thanks to the good work of his teammates, the Groupama-FDJ rider was still able to enter the final sprint in the first ten positions. “They first launched on the right and maybe I should have gone on the left,” said Paul. “That being said, as we agreed with Bram, the important thing was to sprint and not be frustrated. I was able to do so, and even if we were hoping for a better result, it’s the first sprint I was able to deliver since the start of the Tour de Pologne”.

In the closing metres, Paul Penhoët could not challenge Tim Merlier for victory, but he still grabbed a solid fifth place on the line. “The first thing he said to me at the finish was: at least I was able to sprint”, confirmed Frédéric. “He was relieved, and he came away with a nice fifth place. He’ll probably have some regrets about the other bunch sprints, but that’s how it is. You need to see the positive, and he hasn’t done many sprints at this level since the start of his career either”. The Frenchman scored his third top-5 at WorldTour level after the first two on the Tour Down Under at the start of the season. Lenny Martinez meanwhile secured his twelfth place overall at the end of this final day. “We came here for a top-10, and he’s not far, just six seconds away”, recalled Frédéric. “This Tour de Pologne was perhaps a little less difficult than usual, which put him at a slight disadvantage, but he and the others are right on track. The week’s record is still positive because they are preparing for the Vuelta, they are at a good level, and they have three weeks left to improve. They need to keep going this way”.

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