In His Own Words: Leigh Howard on Tour of Poland Stage 7

Sun 5 Aug 2012

The Tour of Poland concluded with a circuit race in Krakow today. It was a pretty straightforward stage. A large group broke away from the start, and they stayed away all day. We had no one in it.

Because we missed out on the move and because Aidis Kruopis won the last sprint stage, the responsibility for the chase – or at least starting the chase – fell onto our shoulders. So, we chased. In the last two laps, a few other teams stepped up to help us.

The last three laps were all about positioning. It was critical to maintain a good position in order to avoid expanding too much energy. The circuit was hard, and the further back we sat, the more we’d have to work.

Julian Dean, Jens Mouris and Fumy Beppu stayed towards the front as the laps ticked down. They pulled as hard as they could, doing a great job to peg back the break. Mitch Docker and I stuck as close to Aidis as possible. It was our job to put Aidis in an advantageous position for the sprint. These sprints in Poland have been so hectic. Just putting him up there is key. It’s the only way he has a chance for the stage win.

Three kilometers from the finish, it began to pour. The roads were practically flooded and visibility became a huge challenge. Mitch and I lost Aidis in the second to last corner. Most of the sprint trains had been derailed by that point. Sprinters lost their leadouts in the rain. Argos-Shimano somehow managed to keep a proper train together, and they ended up taking the win with John Degenkolb.

Aidis ran seventh in the end. It’s not a bad result with such a difficult run in to the line.

All in all, we’re pretty happy with our performance at Tour of Poland. For a lot of our riders, this was their first race back from injury or an extended break. It was a lot of ‘wait and see’ in terms of form, and for the most part, the form was there. In the end, this race was more about preparation for the later part of the season than the race itself. We all managed to come out with better condition than we had at the start, and we got a stage win on the way. We don’t leave every WorldTour race with a win, so in that sense it’s fantastic.