Another third place for ORICA-BikeExchange at the Tour of Poland, this time with Mezgec

Thu 14 Jul 2016

ORICA-BikeExchange finished today's stage three of the Tour of Poland in third place after contesting the sprint with Slovenian rider Luka Mezgec.

The team had multiple cards to play going in to the long 240km stage, executing one of their few different options in the finish to conclude the day in third place for the third consecutive day.

"We had a plan A to get Caleb Ewan to the finish and to work for him in the sprint," explained sport director Dave McPartland. "Then plan B was to sprint for Luka if Caleb happened to be dropped after the climbs, and our plan C was to put Sam Bewley or Jens Keukeleire in the break if one went."

"The boys were awesome at the start of the race, a large break of riders went early on and we had both Sam and Jens in there as planned. That was good for us as two or three teams had to chase hard to bring it back.

"Out of that original group, another 11 riders went away and Jens also made it into that. This was all within the first 40kilometres, so it was a very hard start to the stage.

"Eventually a different small group of riders went up the road for most of the race and we were happy about that situation, as we were able to sit back and relax a bit in the bunch.

"Once we came onto the final circuits, a steep climb each lap caused the bunch to split into two big groups. Caleb was dropped on the final time up the climb, but due to great work from Svein Tuft and Sam, he was able to get back to the front of with just eight kilometres to go." 

The team showed cohesion and commitment to one plan to make the decision to work for Mezgec in the finale, despite Ewan making it back to the front and into contention with several kilometres to go. 

"By the time Caleb got back on we had already decided to stick to the plan and sprint with Luka, which we had discussed before the stage," continued McPartland. "Everybody was clear on that, and it was a good opportunity for Luka, he's shown us he's in good condition at the moment."

"Luka is normally a lead-out guy, so we are pretty happy with his result. He said he wasn't quite aggressive enough and got a bit pushed out of the line, so at that moment had to just open up his sprint.

"It's a shame that we keep getting third places after all the hard work from the team and we have shown we are in good enough shape as it's been very close each stage.

"A lot of teams had to ride on the front today, so there will certainly be tired legs going into tomorrow's stage which isn't too dissimilar to today. We will give it another go tomorrow and hopefully end this string of thirds." 

How it happened: 

The teams arrived to the start of stage three in Zawiercie, under grey and drizzly skies. The stage marked the longest of the tour and with hillier terrain than the previous two stages it set the scene for an unpredictable finish.

Within the first 50kilometres of the race, the pace was furious and various breakaways established with frantic chasing from the teams behind. Eventually a small group of five riders were given freedom and it didn't take long before they established a lead of over five minutes with the peloton content and settling into a steady rhythm. 

The gap continued to grow, when the current leading team, Etixx-Quickstep headed to the front to control the distance between themselves and the leaders. Once the breakaway was back at a manageable distance, the peloton were happy again to leave the leaders out front, timing the moment to bring them back. 

The action started once again after the breakaway riders were finally brought back and the race entered the finishing laps which contained a gnarly 700metre climb with an challenging steep gradient.

Nicolas Roach (Team Sky) attacked on one of the later climbs, taking with two other riders to form another dangerous move. The trio worked well together as the bunch began to split up over the climb and it wasn't until 16kilometres to go that the leaders all returned and the bunch was finally all back together. 

The speed dramatically slowed at this moment, opening up another opportunity for further attacks. Lorenzo Rota (Bardiani CSF) went away solo and led the race all the way until just seven kilometres to go.

The race finally looked set on a bunch sprint, and ORICA-BikeExchange placed themselves well behind the Etixx-Quickstep train as the group lined out around the tight corners.

Jack Haig, Keukeleire and Ewan lined up near the front of the bunch, with Mezgec tucked in a couple of wheels behind. The sprint quickly opened up all across the road with Bonifazio taking a convincing win and Mezgez producing a strong sprint but having to settle for third spot. 

Ewan remains in third place overall, just eight seconds down on the leader with four stages to go.

Tour of Poland stage three:

1. Nicollo Bonifazio (Trek-Segafredo) 5:46:12
2. Moreno Hofland (Team Lotto-Jumbo) ST
3. Luka Mezgec (ORICA-BikeExchange) ST

General classification after stage three:

1. Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-Quickstep) 12:06:36
2. Niccolo Bonifazio (Trek-Segafreda) 0:06
3. Caleb Ewan (ORICA-BikeExchange) 0:08