In Sanok on Tuesday, the two Groupama-FDJ leaders on the Tour of Poland got in the mix in the final. After covering a few climbs over the last hour of racing, Quentin Pacher managed to make his way through the sprinters to grab eighth place on the stage. His teammate Arnaud Démare was unable to fully defend his chances as he was slowed down by a crash in the last two kilometres, thus crossing the line in thirteenth position. Quentin Pacher remains ninth overall after this stage 4.

For the very first time since the start of the race, the riders had less than 200 kilometres to cover this Tuesday, on the Tour of Poland. From Lesko to Sanok, “only” 180 were to be ridden. With the hilly terrain, however, the day’s outcome was everything but certain. “We started with two plans”, explained Sébastien Joly. “Arnaud was plan A. If it was a little too hard in the end, we could switch to Quentin as a plan B. But as I told the guys, it was a great plan B! So, we had two cards today. Arnaud is going quite well on this kind of course, where he keeps on improving. It was worth going for him. As for Quentin, he was placed overall and got these puncher qualities”. Two climbs in the last forty kilometres were then supposed to decide everything. Before that, however, the start proved to be quite lively. It even took twenty kilometres for five men to break away: Kamil Malecki (Lotto-Soudal), Nans Peters (AG2R-Citroën), Mads Wurzt Schmidt (Israel-Premier Tech), Rui Oliveira (UAE Team Emirates) and Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X). “Apart from UAE, a lot of teams interested in a bunch sprint were not in the front”, underlined Sébastien. “So, we knew that even without pulling ourselves, it could all come back together. Above all, the Israel-Premier Tech rider was just fifty seconds away overall, so we knew there would be teams to chase”.

“Arnaud had to spend a lot of energy to get back to the front of the race”, Sébastien Joly

It was so indeed, even if the gap almost reached five minutes at halfway. About sixty kilometres from the line, the pace clearly increased in the bunch, which surely came back slowly to the breakaway. When the latter tackled the first climb of the final (4.6 km at 5%), their advantage was only about two minutes. From there already, the peloton lost some men, including some of the sprinters. Straight after, the riders hit the last climb of the day, not categorized although being more difficult than the previous one (4.8 km at 5.9%). While Bruno Armirail and Quentin Pacher remained at the front, Arnaud Démare dropped back a bit in the bunch but never lost contact. When entering the day’s last twenty kilometres, the French sprinter was still in the bunch with some teammates. “We asked Ignas to pull with about fifteen kilometres to go, as we couldn’t hesitate too much”, added Sébastien. “It was important to take part in the chase. Once Arnaud got over the climbs, we needed to bring back everything together to fight for the win”. Thanks to the former Lithuanian champion and a few other teams, the peloton first caught a chasing duo including Rémi Cavagna before coming back to the breakaway just three kilometres from the finish. Zdenek Stybar then launched an attack to go solo until the finish line. 

A kilometre further, a crash split the bunch after a right corner. “Miles, Bram and Quentin got through in the first three positions,” said Sébastien. “After Stybar’s attack on a small hill in town, Arnaud needed to recover a little on the descent and found himself in twentieth position. He was then slowed down by the crash and had to spend a lot of energy to get back to the front of the race”. Although the Groupama-FDJ lead-out train was able to lead the way in the last kilometres, the former French champion was unfortunately too far to fight for victory. Quite attentive at the front, Quentin Pacher tried to get in the mix in the slight, uphill finish. “He was going well for some time in the final, but when the real sprinters came along, he was no longer in the same league”, added Sébastien. The 30-year-old puncher eventually took eighth place while his sprinter teammate got thirteenth. “Apart from having two guys in top-15, I want to point out everyone’s attitude, with Ignas’ quick reaction to chase, and with all the others who worked well for Quentin and for Arnaud”, said Sébastien. “The team spirit that we have shown since the start for our two leaders is very interesting”. It will again be very useful on stage 5 this Wednesday, with another uncertain outcome, while Quentin Pacher will start the day in 9th place overall. 

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