Aidis Kruopis Sprints to Fourth on Tour of Poland Stage FourWed 31 Jul 2013
Taylor Phinney (BMC) took a hard fought solo victory on the fourth stage of the Tour of Poland. The American played a decisive role in his teammate’s victory yesterday and seized his own opportunity today when he attacked the field 7km from the finish. Despite a concerted chase from the sprint teams, Phinney managed to stay away. Steele Von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp) bested Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2R La Mondiale) in the bunch sprint for second while Aidis Kruopis crossed the line in fourth.
“Because there are no teams with true trains here, the finishes play into the hands of someone like Taylor or whoever might want to jump off the front,” explained Howard. “I was expecting Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard Trek) to attack up the hill today. You have to be immensely strong to pull of that sort of move, and Taylor had really good legs today.”
Howard called the stage an easy one until the final circuits. An escape group of nine riders went up the road from the start. As their advantage approached five minutes, the field gave chase.
“The breakaway went from the gun,” Howard said. “We let them get some time, and it was just a ramp up towards the finish from there. Other than that, it was a cruisy day – not the most eventful day in the office, to be honest.”
“This changed when we hit the circuits,” added Howard. “I’m not sure how much anyone really likes this style of finish. The circuits are fairly dangerous.”
The breakaway riders went on the attack during the four laps of the finish circuit. The last man standing was caught just inside the final lap, 11km from the finish. Valerio Agnoli (Astana) countered the catch. When Agnoli’s move was neutralised, Phinney seized his opportunity.
“I had a shot at sprinting yesterday, and unfortunately it didn’t go quite as planned,” admitted Howard. “Today we gave Aidis a shot. He won stage four last year in a different sort of sprint, and we thought we’d give him his chance today. The plan was for Mitch [Docker] to take us to as late as possible – at least to the top of the climb 800m from the finish. We’d play it by ear from there.”
With Phinney dangling just ahead, ORICA-GreenEDGE led the field under the flamme rouge. Their efforts reduced Phinney’s advantage but could not eliminate it completely.
“We might have gone a little too early today, and Taylor was too strong to shut down,” said Howard. “We couldn’t catch him in the end.”
Pieter Weening finished in the bunch to protect his overall position. Fourth after the opening weekend of racing in Italy, Weening remains in fourth, 7” behind race leader Rafal Majka (TST), with three days left to race.
“Tomorrow is a very iff day on paper,” noted Howard. “Ben Swift (Sky) won last year. It could be a reduced bunch sprint for the sprinters that can climb well. We’ll talk tactics later. Maybe Mitch can have a go tomorrow. He’s been climbing really well.”
“We’ll also help keep Pieter out of trouble,” Howard added. “We’ll look after him tomorrow, and let him take over the next day – it’s a harder stage. After that, it’s just the time trial on Saturday.”