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After another splendid Etixx-QuickStep lead-out, Gaviria beat Mezgez and Kwiatkowski in the reduced bunch sprint on stage 4 of the Tour de Pologne; the Colombian extended his lead

Photo: ANSI / PERI - ZENNARO

FERNANDO GAVIRIA

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LUKA MEZGEC

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MICHAL KWIATKOWSKI

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QUICK-STEP - ALPHA VINYL

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TOUR DE POLOGNE

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15.07.2016 @ 19:20 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Fernando Gaviria continued the Etixx-QuickStep dominance at the Tour de Pologne by taking the third victory for the team and his second win in just four days of racing on the hilly stage 4. After a great lead-out from his team, he beat Luka Mezgec (Orica-BikeExchange) and a fast-finishing Mickal Kwiatkowski (Sky) to take the win and extend his overall lead.

 

Ever since he beat Mark Cavendish at last year’s Tour de San Luis, Fernando Gaviria has been destined for stardom. Lat in the year he confirmed his potential as an Etixx-QuickStep stagiaire as he made André Greipel look like a junior rider in a sprint at the Tour of Britain and many were looking forward to his debut at the WorldTour in 2016.

 

Things got off to a great start for Gaviria as he won his first ever WorldTour sprint on stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico just days after he had claimed a second Worlds title on the omnium. He later proved that he can be a contender in the classics too as a late crash made the world wonder what might have been at Milan-Sanremo.

 

Unfortunately, an injury slowed his progress down and he missed all his races in May. When he returned to competition in June, he was not at his best and the Tour de Suisse ended as a bit of a disappointment.

 

Now he has set his sights on the omnium at the Olympics and this week he uses the Tour de Pologne to prepare. On the first day he proved his return to form by winning the sprint behind his attacking teammate Davide Martinelli and one day later he confirmed his status as the fastest rider in the strong sprinting field by winning a very close sprint on stage 2. After having hit the front too early yesterday, he got back on track in today’s stage where he took his second victory after another excellent performance by his team.

 

After yesterday’s moderately hilly stage, a very similar stage was on the menu for day 4. The course brought the riders over 218 from Nowy Sacz to Rzeszow. There was a climb right from the beginning but then the road flattened out. At the halfway point, the riders tackled two category 2 climbs before they crossed the line for the first time. Then they did one lap of a 60.1km circuit with one category 3 and two category 2 climbs before they ended the stage by doing three laps of a flat 6km circuit.

 

It was another sunny and windy day in Poland when the riders gathered for the start of another very long stage without Dmitriy Kozontchuk (Katusha) who hurt his shoulder yesterday. After a minute of silence to honor the victims of the Nice terror, the attacking started straight from the gun.

 

Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) and Jens Keukeleire (Orica-BikeExchange) got clear after a few kilometres of aggressive racing and they worked hard to maintain a 20-second advantage. When the gap started to grow, Adam Stachowiak (Verva), Jaroslaw Marycz (CCC), Szymon Rekita (Poland), Igor Boev (Gazprom) and Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani) took off in pursuit and when it was clear that the peloton had slowed down, the two front groups wisely merged.

 

The peloton took it easy and quickly allowed the gap to go out to 6.35 and it even reached 7.25 before Etixx-QuickStep slowly upped the pace. At the 96km mark, they had reduced the gap to 5.20 before Stachowiak beat Marycz, Tonelli and De Marchi in the first KOM sprint. In the second sprint, Marycz beat Stachowiak, Tonelli and Rekita in the first KOM sprint.

 

 

The gap was coming down quickly and with 90km to go, the escapees only had 3.25 left of their advantage. They responded well though and fifteen kilometres later it was still 3.30

 

The gap even went out to 3.45 before the peloton again accelerated and it was down to 3.15 with 60km to go. When Stachowiak beat Marycz and De Marchi in the third KOM sprint, it was down to only 2.10

 

As they hit the first category 2 climb on the circuit, the breakaway split up as Tonelli, De Marchi and Keukeleire surged clear. Marycz and Stachowiak gathered a bit further back while Boev was soon caught by the peloton was still led by Etixx-QuickStep 2.30 behind the leaders. Tonelli beat Keukeleire and De Marchi in the KOM sprint while Marycz picked up the final point.

 

Toms Skujins (Cannondale) attacked from the peloton and in the flat section between the climbs, he caught Rekita whom he dropped on the climb. He then made it up to Stachowiak who was now together and immediately continued on his own. Further back, the peloton was splintering, with Etixx-QuickStep still riding on the front.

 

Tonelli led Keukeleire and De Marchi over the top while Marycz dug deep to pick up the final point before he was passed by Skujins. Moments later, De Marchi attacked solo and Tonelli took off in pursuit.

 

Skujins caught Keukeleire but he didn’t get any help from the tired Belgian and as Gaviria had survived the climbs, Etixx-QuickStep were chasing hard with Pieter Serry and Wisniowski. They brought the two pair back with 29km to go and moments later it was also over for Tonelli.

 

With 25km to go, the gap to De Marchi was still 1.40 but Serry and Wisniowski made it melt away. Five kilometres later, it was only 49 secconds and one kilometre later, it was over.

 

As they approached the finish line for the first time, Lampre-Merida took control as they wanted to set Diego Ulissi op for the intermediate sprint. Matej Mohoric did the lead-out but the Italian was beaten by Philippe Gilbert (BMC) as they crossed the line. Unfortunately, they had made a mistake as the sprint only came a little later.

 

Here BMC tried to do the lead-out for Gilbert but it was Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) who did a long sprint. The Belgian was passed by Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) and Ulissi, with Gilbert and Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep) missing out on bonus seconds.

 

Straight after the sprint, Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) went on the attack and he immediately got a gap as there was no organized chase. Instead, there were lots of attacks, with riders like Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) and Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal) part of the action but no one could get clear before a Bardiani rider surged clear just as they finished the first lap of the circuit.

 

The Bardiani rider made the junction with 10km to go but the gap was almost nothing as Lampre-Merida was chasing hard. However, Matej Mohoric who was working on the front suddenly bridged the gap together with Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) and it briefly looked like a strong quartet would have a chance.

 

However, Mohoric refused and so a few riders joined them one kilometre later. Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) and Salvator Puccio (Sky) were the most active and it was the tiny French climber who surged clear in a solo move.

 

Despite some aggression from Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) in the group, the chaser failed to work together and so they were swallowed up. As Peter Kennaugh started to chase for Sky, Elissonde was also brought back, his bid for freedom ending with 7.5km to go.

 

Fraile went straight to the front to work for Kristian Sbaragli and he set a fast pace as they crossed the line to start the final lap of the 6km circuit. The strong Basque led the field for the first two kilometres before the sprint trains took over.

 

With 4km to go, IAM and Bardiani lined up next to each other with Larry Warbasse and Lorenzo Rota on the front respectively but they were soon passed by the Tinkoff team. Pavel Brutt took a massive turn for the Russian team and then swung off just after the 3km to go banner.

 

A Bardiani rider hit the front before the Etixx-QuickStep train took over. That’s when Philippe Gilbert (BMC) made a strong attack, with Nicolas Roche (Sky) trying to join him. However, Etixx-QuickStep reacted immediately and with 1.2km to go, they were back in the fold.

 

Stybar closed the gap and then Bob Jungels led Davide Martinelli, Nikolas Maes and Gaviria under the flamme rouge. Marinellu took a strong turn before Maes did the lead-out.

 

Gaviria started his sprint from the perfect position after Luka Mezgec (Orica-BikeExchange) had tried to go from afar. The pair went head to head but Gaviria had the upper hand in the end. Boy van Poppel (Trek) and Kwiatkowski finished fast but they had to settle for third and fifth respectively, with Heinrich Haussler (IAM) separating them in fourth.

 

With the win, Gaviria now leads the race by 19 seconds over Kwiatkowski who picked up valuable bonus seconds and moved into second, 3 seconds ahead of Ulissi. However, he will have no change to defend his lead in tomorrow’s fifth stage which is the first key day for the GC. The long 225km stage has a flat start but it ends with two laps of a 50km circuit that has three category 1 climbs. Some of them are very steep and the final one comes just 9.7km from the finish. From there, it is a short descent and a slight rise to the finish in Zakopane where the puncheurs are expected to shine.

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