Mezgec secures points jersey with second on final stage of the Tour of Slovenia

Sun 23 Jun 2019

Slovenian Luka Mezgec secured the points jersey at the Tour of Slovenia as he sprinted to second place on the fifth and final stage of the race.

The former race leader made it over the final climb of the day to be in contention for the stage victory thanks to some strong teamwork from his Mitchelton-SCOTT squad, but the 30-year-old didn’t quite have the legs to take the win in the tricky uphill sprint to the line.

Final Day

The final day of action got underway in torrential rain as the peloton rolled out of Trebnje on a 167.5-kilometre route to Novo Mesto, with just two categorised climbs to contend with for the bunch. However, with the last climb coming inside the final 30-kilometres, any sprinters with hopes of contesting the day would have to climb well if they wanted to be in the mix at the finish.

It was a lively start to the stage with an 11-rider group initially edging clear of the peloton before being brought back. A secondary move then went clear with four riders making up the breakaway, and they eventually opened up a gap of over four minutes.

The break was down to two riders over the first climb of the day and with 60-kilometres to go it was all back together. The race then looked set for a routine run to the finish with the final climb still to come, but a dangerous move containing race leader Diego Ulissi (UAE-Team Emirates) edged clear of the pack.

Final Sprint

The move alerted Neri Sottoli - Selle Italia – KTM who set about reeling the attack back and they succeed with 53-kilometres to go. But as the race looked to have calmed down again, another group of four attacked and quickly opened up a gap, with the peloton happy enough to allow the move to go ahead of the final climb.

As the race hit the slopes of the final category-three ascent it was all back together, but a strong tempo at the head of the pack was quickly thinning it out and just 30-rider remained over the top. Mezgec was amongst them and teammates Esteban Chaves and Callum Scotson moved to the front to set a high pace ahead of the sprint finale.

Neo-pro Edoardo Affini then took over for the final lap around Novo Mesto with Australian Cameron Meyer tasked with guiding Mezgec around the tricky final bend. The Slovenian was pushed wide heading around the last corner as Giacomo Nizzolo (Team Dimension Data) surprised the field by going early, with the Italian holding on for the win as Mezgec took second.

Luka Mezgec:
"It was a brilliant team work today, everyone was committed to the job and that’s great to see."

"The final sprint was technical and I knew I need to be second position on the last corner. Unfortunately, I got squeezed and had to start sprinting from fourth, which cost me the win. But Nizzolo did a great job and he deserved that win today."

"Overall as a team we had a great week here in Slovenia and it’s awesome to get this red jersey in the end."

Gene Bates:
“Today showed some great team camaraderie, I don’t think any team had as many riders as we did at the front over the top of the climb and the guys really committed to what we spoke about this morning, which was to try and set Luka up for the stage win in the sprint.”

“I think overall, we’re happy. One aspect we were hoping to target was the general classification with Lucas (Hamilton), but unfortunately, he had a few falls this week so he wasn’t able to finish the race and that more or less ruled us out of the GC at that point.”

“But again we had real good signs from Esteban, continuing his recovery and obviously some big positives for Luka, taking a stage win and winning the points jersey. And also, our younger guys, the likes of Scotson and Affini were fantastic, especially today."

Tour of Slovenia Stage 5 Results:
1. Giacomo Nizzolo (Team Dimension Data) 4:01:55
2. Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST
3. Shane Archbold (BORA – Hansgrohe) ST

General Classification After Stage 5:
1. Diego Ulissi (UAE-Team Emirates) 19:41:23
2. Giovanni Visconti (Neri Sottoli - Selle Italia – KTM) +22 
3. Aleksandr Vlasov (Gazprom-RusVelo) +0:25
6. Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +1:08

Photos Courtesy of Getty Images.