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With a powerful attack in the steepest part of the final climb, Henao rode away to a solo win in the Tour de Pologne queen stage; the Colombian took the overall lead on a countback over Ulissi

Photo: Sirotti

DIEGO ULISSI

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SERGIO LUIS HENAO

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TEAM SKY

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TOUR DE POLOGNE

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07.08.2015 @ 19:16 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Sergio Henao (Sky) continued his remarkable comeback from a horrific knee injury when he rode away with a solo win in the queen stage at the Tour de Pologne. With a powerful attack in the steepest part of the final climb, he dropped his rivals and managed to hold his chasers off by 8 seconds to take the win and the overall lead on a countback over Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) who finished second for the second day in a row.

 

A few years ago Sergio Henao proved that he has the potential to become one of the best climbers in the world but his career has been hampered by several setbacks. First his team put him on inactive status due to strange blood values until an investigation proved that he had done nothing wrong as it all came down to him being a high-altitude native.

 

When he finally returned to competition at last year’s Tour de Suisse, he was knocked down by a car while warming up for the time trial and he was left with a broken kneecap. He faced a long recovery until he was back in action in March and surprised most when he nearly won the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, his second race after his comeback.

 

Surprisingly, he was omitted from the Sky roster for the Tour de France but today he proved that he will be one to watch at the Vuelta a Espana when he took an emphatic solo victory in the queen stage of the Tour de Pologne. Three years ago he had come agonizingly close to winning the exact same stage and today everything came together for the talented Colombian.

 

After the penultimate climb where both he and teammate Mikel Nieve had made their first attacks, a regrouping took place and Jesper Hansen (Tinkoff-Saxo), Petr Vakoc (Etixx-QucikStep), Paolo Tiralongo, Fabio Aru (Astana), Sergio Henao, Mikel Nieve (Sky), Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), Ben Hermans (BMC), Ion Izagirre (Movistar), Lawson Craddock (Giant-Alpecin), Riccardo Zoicl (Trek), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal), Davide Formolo (Cannondale), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r), Davide Rebellin (CCC) have gathered in a front group when they entered the final 10km. Vakoc tried to attack on the descent but it was Nieve who continued his aggressive riding by escaping.

 

Tiralongo was setting the pace on the front of the group but didn’t get any help and so Hermans also managed to get clear. He quickly made it back to the lone Nieve and those two riders entered the final 7km with an advantage of 10 seconds.

 

Zoidl also tried to bridge the gap but as he hit the flat roads, he decided to wait for the main group where Tiralongo was still working hard. However, the gap had gone out to 20 seconds when they hit the final 3km climb to the finish.

 

A second group nearly made it back to the main group as they hit the climb where Aru attacked hard right from the bottom. He got a small gap but a strong Izagirre brought the Italian back.

 

Only Henao, Zakarin, Ulissi, De Clercq and Formolo had managed to stay in contact with Izagirre and as the pace went down, Henao made his move. He flew past the fading leaders while Aru desperately led the chase

 

Aru, Izagirre, Nieve, Hermans, Ulissi made up the chase group before Craddock also joined them. De Clercq, Zakarin, Riblon and Formolo were further back while Aru continued to set the pace.

 

Craddock and Hermans were dropped, leaving just Aru, Izagirre, Nieve and Ulissi in the group but they didn’t get any closer to Henao. With 1.5km to go, Izagirre finally came through for a turn while Craddock and Hermans rejoined the chasers.

 

At the flamme rouge, it was clear that no one was going to catch Henao as there was no cooperation in the chase group and instead Riblon, De Clercq, Formolo and Zakarin made it back. Formolo, Aru and Izagirre were the only riders willing to work and so Henao had plenty of time to celebrate his win. Ulissi beat Craddock in the sprint 8 seconds later while De Clercq and Zakarin lost a few seconds in the finale.

 

Henao and Ulissi are now equal on time but Henao takes the yellow jersey on a countback. He will try to defend his position in tomorrow’s completely flat 25km time trial in Krakow where the overall winner of the WorldTour race will be found in what is set to be a close battle.

 

The queen stage

After yesterday’s first hilly stage, it was time for the queen stage in the Tour de Pologne which was a circuit race around the city of Bukowina Tatrzanska. Almost the entire 174km stage took place on a tough 38.4km circuit that the riders would cover four times. It included three short steep climbs and virtually no flat roads and the final ascent led straight to the finish line. The steepest section came with 3km to go while the final 2km only averaged 2-3%.

 

It was another hot day in Poland when the riders gathered for the start. With a hilly circuit, it was no surprise that the stage got off to a very fast start with lots of attacks and it took a long time for the break to be established.

 

Lots of attacks

After a few kilometres of attacking, six rider got clear and they were joined by another three to form a nine-rider group that included Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep). He was joined by Robert Kiserlovski (Tinkoff-Saxo), his teammates Carlos Verona Gianni Meersman, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Ivan Santaromita (Orica-GreenEDGE), Branislau Samoilau and Marek Rutkiewicz (CCC) and later Vasil Kiryienka (Sky) also made it across. For a long time, those 10 riders fought hard to maintain a 20-second advantage.

 

When the gap had gone out to 30 seconds, Kwiatkowski attacked again and he managed to win the special sprint in Zakopane. The group came back together as they left Zakopane and headed back onto the main circuit.

 

Kwiatkowski takes off

The gap started to come down again and so Kwiatkowski accelerated. He managed to get a 20-second advantage over his chasers and extended the gap to the peloton to 50 seconds.

 

Three riders ridged across to the nine chasers while the peloton finally decided to slow down. The gap went out to more than a minute but when they hit the first climb, the gap reduced their deficit to 55 seconds.

 

A big group gathers in the front

On the climb, De Marchi took off in lone pursuit of Kwiatkowski who won the KOM sprint ahead of the Italian, Rutkiewicz, Verona and Eduard Vorganov (Katusha) while the peloton caught the chasers. A CCC rider attacked on the next climb and a new 13-rider chase group formed.

 

That group caught Kwiatkowski at a time when the gap was just 20 seconds and it was Pawel Poljanski (Tinkoff-Saxo), Michal Golas, Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep), Lutsenko, Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida), Dylan Teuns (BMC), Vorganov, Axel Domont (Ag2r), Arnold Jeannesson, Kenny Elissonde (FDJ), Maciej Paterski, Jan Hirt, Rutkiewicz (CCC) and Tomasz Marczynski (Poland) who had made it across. The peloton decided to take a breather and so the gap was 1.20 when Paterski led Golas, Poljanski, Niemiec and Jeannesson over the top of the second climb.

 

KOM points for Paterski

Kwiatkowski was briefly dropped but together with Santaromita he made it back on the descent. Ian Boswell (Sky), George Bennet, Bram Tankink (LottoNL) and Darwin Atapuma (BMC) also made the junction to make it 20 riders in the group.

 

At the end of the first lap, the gap was 1.45 and after it had briefly been reduced to 1.10, it was 2.10 when they hit the next climb. Here Paterski took maximum points ahead of Golas, Kwiatkowski, Brambilla and Jeannesson.

 

Kwiatkowski attacks again

Paterski and Kwiatkowski got a 20-second advantage on the descent while Cannondale-Garmin led the peloton 2.30 behind. As they hit the next climb, the gaps were 1.00 and 3.25 respectively.

 

Paterski led Kwiatkowski over the top while Poljanski and Marczynski were next, 22 seconds later. Golas was first from the big group, 14 seconds further adrift.

 

A new group is formed

The two chasers caught the two leaders on the descent while Lotto Soudal took over the pace-setting in the peloton. When they hit the final climb, Kwiatkowski was dropped from the front group while more riders joined the leaders.

 

At the start of the penultimate lap, a 16-rider group with Poljanski, Kwiatkowski, Golas, Brambilla, Diego Rosa (Astana), Boswell, Niemiec, Atapuma, Teuns, Vorganov, Bennett, Tankink, Jeannesson, Elisson, Paterski, Nikolay Mihaylov (CCC), Marczynski and Guillaume Bonnafond (Ag2r) had been established and they had a 3-minute advantage over the bunch. Teuns was both dropped while Kwiatkowski attacked and managed to build a 30-second advantage on the next climb.

 

Tankink takes off

Tankink attacked from the chase group and passed Kwiatkowski who exploded and decided to wait for the peloton. He quickly had a 20-second advantage over his chasers while the peloton was at 2.55.

 

While Boswell had to stop for two wheel changes, Tankink reached the top of the climb. Paterski, Golas, Jeannesson and Elissonde were first from the chase group. At this point, Tankink had an advantage of 40 seconds.

 

Poljanski joins Tankink

Tankink battled hard to maintain a 1-minute lead over his chasers while the peloton was at 2 minutes, led by Vegard Breen (Lotto Soudal). As they hit the second climb for the penultimate climb for the penultimate time, Davide Villella (Cannondale-garmin) took over and he created a big selection and significantly reduced the gap. Meanwhile, Niemiec, Jeannesson, Mihaylov and Bonnafond were dropped from the chase group.

 

Tankink was first at the top of the climb while Paterski was first from the chase group. As they headed down the descent, they were nearly caught and so Poljanski took off in pursuit. He quickly made it back to Tankik and those two riders worked well together.

 

Tankink cracks

In the peloton, Villella and Sander Armee (Lotto Soudal) traded pulls and they constantly got closer to the leaders. As they hit the final climb for the penultimate time, they had nearly caught the chasers and so Brambilla tried to take off. However, it was Rosa who made the difference and quickly joined the front duo.

 

Tankink cracked and so it was Aru and Rosa who were left in front at the start of the final lap. The chasers had now been caught and Villella led the peloton across the line just 33 seconds later.

 

Rosa the lone leader

Armee and Villella continued to set the pace while Manuele Mori (Lampre-Merida) sprinted ahead to take third in the intermediate sprint. Moments later, Villella led them onto the first climb where Sky decided to take over.

 

Boswell did the first work and when he had brought the gap down to less than 20 seconds, Rosa dropped Poljanski. Meanwhile, Puccio took over in the peloton and as Rosa crested the summit, he was almost caught.

 

Nieve attacks

With 25km to go, Rosa was back in the fold and Puccio continued to set the pace until he swung off with 17km to go. Here Philip Deignan took over and he sent several riders out the back door.

 

Astana took over with Paolo Tiralongo as they hit the steepest part where he made the group explode to pieces. This was where Nieve made his move and quickly got a gap over a small chase group that was led by Aru. The Italian managed to bring the Basque back before Henao made an unsuccessful acceleration.

 

Strong move by Craddock

Aru, Henao, De Clercq and Izagirre were the only surviving riders but as they finished the steep part. Craddock, Nieve and Rebellin also made it back. Craddock accelerated immediately and he got a big gap while a regrouping too place further back.

 

Nieve took off in lone pursuit and was joined by Nieve. Those two riders caught Craddock while Tiralongo started to chase hard. Hermans led Nieve and Craddock over the top but moments later Tiralongo and De Clercq were first from the chase group. The junction was made with 11km to go, setting the scene for the finale.

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