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Dropping Hirt on the final climb, König took a solo win in the queen stage of the Czech Cycling Tour; Vakoc made a great comeback to take the overall lead

Photo: Sirotti

LEOPOLD KÖNIG

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15.08.2015 @ 19:33 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Riding for the Czech national team, Leopold König (Sky) took the first win of the season when he emerged as the strongest in the queen stage of the Czech Cycling Tour. He dropped Jan Hirt (CCC) on the final climb and held off a four-rider chase group that included Petr Vakoc (Etixx-QuickStep) who is the new overall leader.

 

The Czech Cycling Tour has been given a 2.1 status for the 2015 season and apart from Roman Kreuziger, the organizers have managed to attract all the biggest Czech stars. Going into the race, many expected a great battle between Zdenek Stybar, Petr Vakoc, Jan Barta and Leopold König.

 

Being the best climber, König was probably the man to beat but he paid the price for a lack of team support in yesterday’s windy stage. Riding for the national team, he missed the split in the crosswinds and so was out of GC contention before he started today’s queen stage.

 

However, he was intent on not leaving his home race empty-handed and with a great solo ride, he turned his fortunes around, taking the first win of his season. With the performance, he shows that the condition is still good after the Giro and the Tour.

 

König made his move on the finishing circuit which was done thrice and included a tough climb. When he made his attack, only Jan Hirt (CCC) and Primoz Roglic (Adria Mobil) could match his pace and after the latter was distanced, it was a duo of local riders that battled for the win. König turned out to be the strongest as he dropped his companion on the final lap and rode away to a memorable solo win.

 

Behind, the GC battle was on as Etixx-QuicStep was on the defensive. Neither Stybar nor Vaoc were able to keep up with Jan Barta who had attacked with Karel Hnik (Czech national team) and Matija Kvasina (Felbermayr). The trio passed Hirt and for a long time it seemed like Barta would take the overall lead.

 

However, Vakoc made a great comeback on the final descent and managed to latch onto the back of the group before Knik beat Barta in the sprint for second. Hence, he moves into the race lead after Etixx-QuickStep had built an advantage in the team time trial.

 

He holds a six-second advantage over Barta as he goes into the final stage which is another hilly affair. After a lumpy first part, the stage ends with 9 laps of a tricky circuit that includes a small climb and a flat finish.

 

The queen stage

After yesterday’s windy stage, it was time for the queen stage which brought the riders over 199km from Mohelnice to Sternberk. After a flat start, the middle section included several climbs but it was the finishing circuit that was expected to do the damage. It included a small climb and a subsequent descent and was set to be tackled thrice.

 

It was another very hot day when the riders gathered for the start but the heat didn’t dampen the attacking spirit. After 30km of fast, aggressive racing, no one had managed to get clear, with almost every team trying to be part of the move.

 

The break gets clear

After an hour and 50km of racing, the peloton was still together before an 18-rider, including race leader Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-QuickStep), got clear. He was among the 8 riders to get dropped and so it was a 10-rider group that built an advantage of 50 seconds.

 

Michal Podlaski (Active Jet), Stephan Rabitsch (Felbermayr - Simplon Wels), Andreas Schillinger (Bora - Argon 18), Kirill Pozdnjakov (RusVelo), Adriaan Janssen (Jo Piels), Tom Wirtgen (Leopard) Tomas Bucháček (Whirlpool-Author), Jan Tratnik (Amplatz - BMC), Radoslav Rogina (Adria Mobil) and Oscar Riesebeek (Metec - TKH) were the riders on the offensive and they were joined by Tomas Koudela (Czech national team) and Matthias Krizek (Felbermayr - Simplon Wels) before they got to the 75km mark where the gap was 2.30. In the peloton, Etixx-QuickStep took control, with Iljo Keisse, Rodrigo Contreras and Lukasz Wisniowski setting the pace.

 

The peloton explodes

While Tratnik won the first KOM sprint, they kept the gap at around 3 minutes but as they got to the 110km mar, it had gone out to 4.15. Meanwhile, Buchacek won the first intermediate sprint while Rabitsch won the next KOM sprint and Riesebeek the next sprint.

 

Wirtgen was the first to get dropped from the break and was back in the peloton at the 150km mark when the gap was still 3.40. Now the Czech national team also started to chase and when CCC took over, the peloton exploded to pieces.

 

König makes his move

It was Sylwester Szmyd doing the damage and he had brought the gap down to 1 minute with 42km to go. Only five riders were still left in front, including Rogina and Schillinger.

 

The action started in the peloton when König, Jan Hirt (CCC) and Primoz Roglic (Adria Mobil) took off. The latter was quickly dropped and the leading pair passed the remnants of the early break, with Schillinger being the final rider to surrender.

 

Hirt is dropped

The main group had been whittled down to 15 riders and Gaviria was no longer there. However, the front duo increased their advantage and so Vakoc tried to bridge the gap.

 

On the final climb, König dropped Hirt while Barta attacked from the main group that included Vaoc and Stybar. He was joined by Karel Knik (Czech national team) and Matija Kvasina (Felbermayr) and those three riders passed the fading Hirt.

 

There was no one stopping König though as he held on for a solo win. 31 seconds later Hnik beat Barta in the sprint for second but as an impressive Vakoc had made the junction he would take the lead.

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