Mezgec doubles up for stage five victory at the Tour of PolandWed 7 Aug 2019
Slovenian Luka Mezgec sprinted to his second stage win of the week with a stunning kick to the line on stage five of the Tour of Poland.
After yesterday’s neutralised stage in memory of Bjorg Lambrecht, the peloton were back racing again and it was Mezgec who timed his sprint to perfection to take a commanding victory in Bielsko-Biala.
It was a fast and attacking start to the day with the first major climbs of the race ahead of the peloton on the 153.8-kilometre stage. Eventually four riders broke clear of the field, but the bunch kept them on a tight leash in the opening kilometres before the pace settled down.
The four leaders were never allowed an advantage of much more than three minutes with the sprint teams patrolling the front of the peloton and keeping the gap in check. The two category-two climbs did little to alter the time gap, but the final ascent of the day, a category-one ramp, was approaching.
The gap had fallen to just one-minute at the foot of the climb and Mitchelton-SCOTT moved to the head of the bunch as they set about upping the tempo in an attempt to rid the peloton of the pure sprinters. Australian Nick Schultz and Ethiopian Tsgabu Grmay were tasked with driving the pace and the increase in tempo saw the end of the breakaway before the summit.
But with 34-kilometres still to go, the descent of the climb presented an opportunity for attacks and a lone rider jumped clear of the bunch on the downhill. As the race headed onto the finishing circuit, Grmay bridged across to the solo leader with one more rider to create a strong group of three.
The trio worked well together to establish a gap of 30-seconds around the tricky finishing loop, but the sprint teams were starting to ramp it up behind with another sprint on the cards. Grmay and his fellow attackers were eventually caught as they headed onto the final lap as the bunch were strung out through the streets.
Mezgec was hovering around the head of the pack after being brought into position by his Mitchelton-SCOTT teammates and the 30-year-old found himself sat in third wheel under the flamme rouge. The long drag to the line meant that timing was key and Mezgec left it late to open up his sprint, but once he kicked there was no catching him as he took another convincing win.
“During the stage the pace was really slow, so I started chatting with Sam Bewley about what if we put two guys on front to go full on the last climb to try and get rid of some sprinters or tire their legs. So, we put two climbers on the front and a few guys got dropped.”
“In the meeting before the stage I said ‘watch for attacks on the finishing laps’ because we know it’s hard and uphill a bit. And that’s what happened, but we had Tsgabu there and it was perfect, it took a lot of pressure off us and for me, I wasn’t thinking about the gap, I was just thinking if we catch them I will sprint, if not we have Tsgabu there.”
“I positioned myself along with Sam Bewley in the perfect position behind Ben Swift because I saw the whole INEOS team were on the front. I was really going deep, it’s been a while since I went so deep, I didn’t know how I was feeling but I got a lot of benefit from altitude training and I’ve lost two-kilos, so that helped a lot on a finish like today.”
“I’m really happy because I was working hard for this, I was really motivated and to get these results straight away it’s a big relief and a sign that the training has been working.”
Gene Bates (Sports Director):
"Firstly it’s important to acknowledge what happened yesterday and hats off to everyone for being able to get up and race again today, it was a hard day, especially after yesterday being so emotionally draining for everyone. But the guys were great, very professional and they got back out there."
"We wanted to make the last climb hard to try and put some of the other sprinters in difficultly, which the guys did, I think they did a really good job. Once we got onto the circuit, having Tsgabu in the move was excellent and took the pressure off us, so it was playing into Luka’s hands all the time."
"The guys delivered him into a good position and he just stayed in the wheels, then when it was his time to go he went and obviously he was the strongest again today. An uphill, headwind sprint isn’t easy and he made it look easy."
"We’ve got two really hard days coming up, nothing long in terms of climbing, but very steep and relentless with the number of times we hit the climbs. We’ll rally around Mikel (Nieve), but we’ve got some good options to be aggressive with as well and we’ll go into the next couple of days with an open plan."
Tour of Poland Stage 5 Results:
1. Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 3:49:55
2. Eduard Prades (Movistar Team) ST
3. Ben Swift (Team INEOS) ST
Tour of Poland General Classification After Stage 5:
1. Pascal Ackermann (BORA – hansgrohe) 18:06:30
2. Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:04
3. Ben Swift (Team INEOS) +0:16
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.