Mezgec sprints to dramatic stage two win at the Tour of SloveniaThu 20 Jun 2019
Slovenian Luka Mezgec sprinted to victory on home soil in a dramatic and nail-biting finish to stage two of the Tour de Slovenia.
The 30-year-old dug deep to make it over the major climb of the day with 20-kilometres remaining before chasing down a lead group inside the final 400-metres and sprinting to victory.
Another Tough Day
After a tougher than expected opening day of racing on stage one, the second day of action showed no signs of letting up with a category-two ramp coming in the last 30-kilometres on the route to Celje.
It was a familiar sight as the peloton rolled out of Maribor with three riders going down the road to form the day’s breakaway. The trio were allowed a maximum advantage of over four minutes before UAE-Team Emirates moved to the head of the bunch and increased the pace.
The high tempo saw teams begin to fight for position in the peloton and Lucas Hamilton was caught up in a crash with 38-kilometres remaining as a touch of wheels in front of the Australian left him with nowhere to go. But, Hamilton was soon back to his feet as the race to the foot of the climb began.
Chase, Chase, Chase
The gap to the three escapees quickly plummeted and the race was all back together as the bunch hit the slopes. Esteban Chaves was to the fore and the Colombian followed attack after attack up the climb as the front of the race was whittled down to five riders as they hit the descent.
Disaster then stuck the recent Giro d’Italia stage winner as he crashed on the tricky downhill and was distanced by leading group. The 29-year-old picked himself up off the ground and began to chase down the four leaders, but as he made contact, he crashed again. That resulted in an epic solo chase as he made it back to the front of the race with 10-kilomteres to go, while teammate Mezgec was a part of an ever-growing chase group behind.
As the race passed through the finish for the first time the five leaders had a gap of 20-seconds and it looked like they would hold on to contest the win. But it was game over inside the final kilometre and as the bridge was made, Mezgec launched his kick for the line, holding on for an impressive win that sees him move into the race lead.
“Until the very last few hundred metres I didn’t know if we would catch the group that broke away on the climb, but then when I saw 400-metres to go I just started going full gas.”
“I was hoping that the front group would go left and take the shorter line into the finish and they did, so I came double the speed around them on the right and that was it!”
“I knew that if I did a good climb they can’t get more than half a minute on me. We were always at 20-25 seconds on the flat on the last lap and I was just trying to motivate our group to pull a little bit. But to be honest with five-kilometres to go I thought we won’t succeed to catch them, but in the end we did.”
Gene Bates (Sports Director):
"It really was a super team effort today, I don’t think there’s a better way to describe it than that. Esteban was fantastic on the climb, he had no problems going with the attacks and he played it very cool for Luka."
"He knew that he had Luka around 25-seconds back over the climb, so we knew it was possible for him to get back before the finish and he did. It was very late obviously, but we knew he would be the fastest in the finish."
"We were targeting yesterday and today in particular, then everything else is a bonus. So, we did earmark today as one for Luka, but it was always going to depend on how well he was climbing. As soon as we knew the time gap at the top of the climb was close it was all in for Luka."
Tour of Slovenia Stage 2 Results:
1. Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 3:35:55
2. Grega Bole (Bahrain Merida) ST
3. Andrea Vendrame (Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec) ST
General Classification After Stage 2:
1. Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 7:40:43
2. Grega Bole (Bahrain Merida) +0:04
3. Andrea Vendrame (Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec) +0:06
Photos Courtesy of Getty Images.