Mezgec gets up for fourth in tough Tour of Slovenia opener

Wed 19 Jun 2019

Local man Luka Mezgez kicked-off a tough opening stage of the Tour of Slovenia with fourth place in a hectic sprint finish in Rogaška Slatina.

The former Slovenia national champion managed to make it through a furious day of racing before mixing it in the reduced bunch sprint for the stage honours.

Tough Opener

With a host of sprinters on the start line the day looked set for a rare sprint finish with a host of hilly days coming up. But that didn’t deter three local riders from heading down the road and forming the day’s break.

The trio stretched their advantage out to just shy of five minutes as the teams with fast men in their ranks controlled the gap at the head of the peloton. The time gap soon fell to three minutes with the sprint teams not wanting to give themselves too much work to do in shutting down the break with one categorised climb still to come.

The break began to deteriorate as soon as they hit the slopes of the category-three climb at Palnnia pri Sevnici, with just one rider remaining over the summit. Meanwhile, the bunch looked content to ease their way over the ascent with their thoughts turning to a sprint finish.

Tense Finish

However, with a modest pace being set over the climb two riders took the chance to attack clear of the peloton as they headed down the descent, with one rider from the original break still one minute ahead. Sensing an opportunity eight more riders then jumped across to form a dangerous group of 11 riders with 42-kilometres remaining.

The peloton scrambled to get organised and the gap stood at over one minute before a chase was eventually ramped up. The advantage for the attackers began to tumble with 20-kilometres to go and with the pack closing in the break began to attack each other until six remained.

As the race passed through the finish line for the first time the peloton had the escapees in sight, and it was finally all back together with five kilometres to go. Mezgec was marshalled into position by his Mitchelton-SCOTT teammates and the Slovenian was the first to open up the sprint, but he couldn’t hold on as he crossed the line in fourth behind winner Pascal Ackerman (BORA-hansgrohe).

Luka Mezgec:
"Today was harder than expected with the group going after last KOM. We didn’t have anyone in the move and Ulissi was there and he's a threat for the GC, so we had to chase with some other teams and that reduced bunch a lot."

In the final I saw there weren’t many leadout guys for the other sprinters and when speed dropped with 500-metres to go, I decided to try and surprise them. It’s a pity I had to break just before I got clear and if they had hesitated for a second I would be able to come first.

"But yeah this time it didn’t work out, anyways I am happy with my feeling in the sprint, which is a good sign for this week."

Tour of Slovenia Stage 1 Results:
1. Pascal Ackerman (BORA-hansgrohe) 4:04:58
2. Giacomo Nizzolo (Team Dimension Data) ST
3. Simone Consonni (UAE-Team Emirates) ST
4. Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST

General Classification After Stage 1:
1. Pascal Ackerman (BORA-hansgrohe) 4:04:48
2. Giacomo Nizzolo (Team Dimension Data) +0:04
3. Simone Consonni (UAE-Team Emirates) +0:06
8. Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:10

Photos courtesy of Kristof Ramon.