Second place for Mezgec on another sprint stage at the Tour of PolandFri 15 Jul 2016
Luka Mezgec produced another solid sprint today for ORICA-BikeExchange, to finish in second place on stage four of the Tour of Poland.
The Slovenian rider charged all the way to the line alongside Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-Quickstep), with Gaviria just edging out Mezgec once again to steal another stage victory.
Today's result is the fourth podium for ORICA-BikeExchange in just as many days, displaying the teams form and relentlessness with a victory frustratingly close.
"We thought the stage today may have been slightly easier than it was," said sport director Dave McPartland. "We knew it was touch and go if it would be a sprint finish or not. The main lap after about 100kilometres was really solid."
"It was almost like a classics race with narrow roads and short steep climbs one after the other. We knew well before the final that Caleb Ewan may not be up there at the finish as he was fighting over some of the earlier climbs, so then the priority for us was then with Luka and also to protect Simon Yates. All the guys contributed well to looking after them both."
Belgian Jens Keukeleire animated most of the stage, making it into the day's main breakaway which formed within the first few kilometres of the race. This left ORICA-BikeExchange in a good situation, with options on another long and challenging stage.
"It was the second day in a row for Keuekeleire to go into the break," McPartland said. "He certainly knows how to pick a good move and he was straight into it right from the start."
"It was the perfect situation for us as the rest of the team had a free ride and it actually could have gone all the way to the line.
"Once it was all back together again, coming into the final Luka pretty much had to do his own thing, so to finish in second place when he didnt have too many troops on hand to help is testiment to just how powerful he is.
"Tomorrow it's a general classification day, certainly a day for the climbers, we have Jack Haig who has been supporting well these last few fays and the way Sam Bewley is climbing he should go well too.
"The GC has been a big goal for us all week so we will see how it goes tomorrow on the climbs, after four podiums but no wins yet, hopefully Simon can bring us a victory."
How it happened:
Stage four of the Tour of Poland started aggressively straight out of the neutral zone, and within the first few kilometres of the stage, Belgian ORICA-BikeExchange rider Keukeleire jumped clear with one other rider.
As the duo hovered around 30seconds ahead of the peloton, five other riders decided to join the move and launched an attack across to the two leaders to make a strong breakaway of seven.
The seven escapees - Adam Stachowiak (VERVA Activejet), Jaroslaw Marycz (CCC), Szymon Rekita (Poland), Igor Boev (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani CFS) and Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) - picked up the pace and with the peloton stalling behind they rapidly gained a six minute lead after 50kilometres of racing.
The race remained this way for the majority of the day with Etixx-Quickstep, the current race leaders, setting the tempo at the front of the bunch to control. Their lead slowly decreased kilometre after kilometre as the race rolled over the undulating terrain.
Eventually the leaders dropped down to a two minute advantage with only 40kilometres remaining. Soon after, over the final tough climbs the breakaway riders began to split up and once again Keukeleire remained at the front of the race with two others.
De Marchi then tried his luck and attacked the remaining leaders riding out solo to a 50second advantage as the peloton finally swallowed up his former companions after a long effort out the front.
As the peloton hit the final three finishing laps of six kilometres the bunch was all back together again and teams began to set them selves up for a bunch sprint.
Philippe Gilbert (BMC) launched an attack with 1.5kilometers to go, stringing out the bunch with Etixx-Quickstep at the head of the bunch leading the chase.
Mezgec placed himself well around seventh wheel coming into the final kilometres and as the lead-out men pulled off the front one-by-one he picked off a few places taking the race on by jumping out of the line to open up the sprint to go head-to-head with Gaviria.
Similarly to the previous three sprint stages the first few riders crossed the line with just inches seperating one another.
The yellow jersey wearer Gaviria got the better of Mezgec on the line, with the ORICA-BikeExchange rider coming in in second place.
Tomorrow a very challenging day awaits the riders, a day likely to shake up the classification.
Tour of Poland stage four:
1. Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-Quickstep) 5:12:56
2. Luka Mezgec (ORICA-BikeExchange) ST
3. Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) ST
General classification after stage four:
1. Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-Quickstep) 17:19:22
2. Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) +0:19
3. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Media) +0:22
25. Jens Keukeleire (ORICA-BikeExchange) +0:26